While exploring beneath a ponderosa pine that housed a colony of great blue herons (Ardea herodias) at Baum Lake (Lassen County CA) the last several years, I discovered an intact heron nest. Great blue herons breed in colonies high in trees, although they also will nest on the ground. This particular nest fell out of the tree during the winter because it was not there last season and is in an exposed site.
The male great blue heron gathers sticks and presents them to the female, who then weaves them into a platform nest with a shallow cup. The cup is lined with pine needles, grasses, moss, small twigs or other vegetative matter. Great blue heron nests can be small (about 20″ in diameter), or after several years’ use, can expand into large structures up to four feet in diameter and three feet in depth.
I was amazed at how well the heron nest was constructed. It fell from high in the canopy, yet did not break apart on impact. I assume the nest was used for only a season or two, because of the small size. Hopefully the great blue heron mother who built this nest has improved her anchoring skills.