How to See Nesting Great Blue Herons in Vancouver

Herons nest in Stanley Park in Vancouver

Herons nesting in Stanley Park. Photo: Frank Lin/City of Vancouver

Vancouver is so immersed in nature that you can see wildlife in the downtown core. Each spring, a colony of Great Blue Herons builds nearly 100 nests on the edge of Stanley Park. You can visit in person, take a tour with a volunteer naturalist, or tune in via webcam to catch the action.

Great Blue Herons in Vancouver

Heron fishing in Lost Lagoon in Vancouver

Heron fishing in Lost Lagoon. Photo: Greg Hart/Stanley Park Ecology Society

With their long necks, spindly legs, and ruffled blue-grey feathers, Great Blue Herons are spectacular birds. They are the largest wading birds in North America, standing over 1 metre (3 feet) tall. Small fish are the heron’s favourite food, so you can often spot them wading through shallow water in search of their next meal.

Each spring and summer, herons mate, build nests, and raise chicks. And in Vancouver, they do it right next to downtown! Since 2021 a huge colony of Great Blue Herons has built nests near the Beach Avenue entrance to Stanley Park. In some years, up to 90 nests are spotted! It’s one of the largest urban heron colonies in North America.

The adults arrive between late January and mid-March to begin mating and building nests. The females lay eggs sometime between late February and mid-March. The chicks hatch as early as mid-March. They will stay in the nest for about 60 days while both parents bring them food. By late summer the chicks are ready to learn to fly. They leave the nests and follow their parents to feeding grounds.

While Great Blue Herons are thriving in Vancouver, their habitat is threatened elsewhere and they are classified as a species at risk in BC. The Vancouver herons appear accustomed to humans, but herons elsewhere may abandon nests in areas with lots of people or traffic. As well, the heron chicks are at risk of predation from eagles, raccoons, and owls.

You can learn more about Vancouver’s herons from the Stanley Park Ecology Society. And if you want to support the colony and the Ecology Society’s monitoring and stewardship initiatives, you can Adopt a Heron Nest.

 

How to Visit the Vancouver Great Blue Heron Colony

Herons in Stanley Park

Herons on a nest. Photo: Frank Lin/Stanley Park Ecology Society

The heron colony is located behind the Vancouver Park Board offices at 2099 Beach Avenue at the entrance to Stanley Park. The trees surrounding the tennis courts are full of nests. If you want to visit the colony in person, stay behind the fences that protect their nests and bring binoculars for a closer look. You should also avoid loud noises and music – they spook the herons. And please keep your dog on a leash.

The heron colony is right next to Stanley Park Brewing. Stop in for some craft beer and West Coast-inspired food after you visit the herons.

Take a Tour of the Great Blue Heron Colony with a Volunteer Naturalist

Herons in a nest

Heron chicks in a nest. Photo: Martin Passchier/Stanley Park Ecology Society

Staff from the Stanley Park Ecology Society lead tours of the heron colony several times each season. The Herons are Here Colony Tour includes a guided tour of the colony along with lots of info about how the herons build their nests and raise their young. You will also learn about how the Stanley Park Ecology Society stewards and supports the colony through monitoring and protection from predators.

This year you can also sign up for the Birds and Brews Tour. The tour is part of the Greater Vancouver Bird Celebration and is led by staff from the Stanley Park Ecology Society. You’ll take a guided walk around Lost Lagoon and the heron colony, then finish with lunch and limited edition beer from Stanley Park Brewing.

 

Watch the Heron Cam

Herons on the Stanley Park Heron Cam

A still image from the Heron Cam. Photo: City of Vancouver

Vancouver Parks and Recreation has a dedicated high-definition Heron Cam that lets you peek in on the herons anytime you want. You can also take control of the camera to zoom in on a specific nest. There is usually some sort of drama to watch as chicks hatch, parents feed babies, eagles swoop overhead, and fledglings learn to fly.

 

More Places to Go Birding in Vancouver

Two people walking along a boardwalk at Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond

Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond. Photo: BC Bird Trail

Located on the Pacific Flyway migration route, the Vancouver area is a prime bird-watching location. You can follow custom birding itineraries around Vancouver to experience the BC Bird Trail.

You can spot shorebirds along Vancouver’s beaches, migrating birds in Richmond’s marshes, rehabilitated raptors at Delta’s OWL Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society and lots more.

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