Young Vernon herons leave nest, suffering in extreme heat

Herons in 'dire' condition

UPDATE: 3:35 p.m.

As a groundswell of support grows to provide water for Vernon's beloved herons, it seems the birds are willing to do almost anything to escape the heat.

Amid reports of juvenile birds falling from their nests and suffering in the sweltering heat, at least one bird had the same idea as humans on Wednesday – seek out some air conditioning.

Rory Greenwell was surprised to come across a great blue heron inside Mark's, at the shopping plaza just down the street from Vernon's protected heronry.

"I met this guy in Mark's today!" Greenwell said in an email to Castanet, along with a photo of the majestic bird playing it cool on a clothing rack.

"I was told that it walked through the door early in the morning."

Greenwell says the area was cordoned off and a conservation officer arrived to retrieve the bird.

"It turns out that he was not 50% off," Greenwell joked.

UPDATE: 2:40 p.m.

Rita Bos with the Vernon Heron Protection Society says she is fielding numerous calls about heron chicks in dire circumstances at the Vernon heronry in the North End of town.

She says two juvenile heron are in a yard on 53rd Avenue, and the young birds often leave the nest before they are strong enough to fly back up.

Their situation is compounded by the extreme heat.

"One tried to fly and flew into a window," says Bos.

"They have been left a bucket of water and the option of choosing to go near a sprinkler."

Bos says only conservation officers can remove a wild animal if it dies.

"Cruel as it sounds, nature operates on survival of the fittest," she said.

"People are caringly concerned for these poor young birds who are facing threatening circumstances."

Meanwhile residents and neighbours have put out a call to provide water dishes and other cooling sources for the birds.

Bos reminds that no one is allowed on the heronry property as it is a protected nature preserve and an offence to trespass. Anyone wanting to help should do so outside the boundaries of the property.

UPDATE: 2:25 p.m.

A citizen effort appears to be building help out Vernon's beloved herons.

After word of the birds suffering in the extreme heat began to spread, residents are recruiting sprinklers, buckets and kiddie pools to give the big birds a break.

"Baby herons are overheating and dropping dead like no tomorrow," Sierra Bowers posted on the Vernon Rant & Rave (Uncensored) Facebook group.

The heron sanctuary is located in the North End of Vernon, between 24th and 20th streets.


Vernon's beloved herons are struggling in the heat, just like the rest of us.

Heron watcher Rita Bos, whose property the heronry sits on, says the big birds are panting and holding their wings low to try and stay cool.

The adults, at least, can fly off to nearby Swan Lake for a cooling drink and to catch fish.

But the young chicks can get into trouble if they leave the nest too soon.

Bos says at least one fledgling is missing, another is dead, and a third has been wandering around the North End neighbourhood for the last three days.

The problem is, the young great blue herons are just learning to fly.

"If they leave the nest, often they just jump and fall down, or they glide down if there's a breeze. But they're not strong enough to fly back up to the nest," says Bos.

She says it can be upsetting to see the helpless young birds on the ground, and she encourages neighbours to put out water dishes for them in the blistering heat.

One neighbourhood resident posted in the Hell Yeah Vernon! Facebook group that she had put some frozen fish chunks out for the birds, which were cooling off in her sprinkler.

"They've had a rough time," Bos said, noting the adults will only feed the fledglings if they return to the nest.

"Otherwise, nature takes its course."

Bos said it has been difficult to count the number of herons that returned this year to the stand of trees near Walmart, but that 88 nests have been active.

"They came in little waves this year and really late," she said.

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