The Great Blue Herons in the nest outside our office have been sitting on five eggs for the last month. Over the weekend, the first pips appeared in two eggs, soon followed by the wavering heads of two fuzzy chicks. Thousands of people watched live on our Great Blue Heron cam, and by this morning there were four chicks wobbling around between their parents’ gigantic feet. The fifth egg could hatch anytime.
In case you weren’t watching while all the drama unfolded, we’ve captured the action and posted highlights as a series of short YouTube videos. In the one above, you can see the moment that the first chick finally raises its head clear of the eggshell. Be sure to watch the rest of the videos in this playlist—you can see earlier shots of the chick struggling to pull its head free of its shell hat (with the father helping a bit) as well as later shots of nestlings two and three. As the birds dry off and get more mobile, it’s amazing to see how long their necks are already, and how fuzzy their feathers are.
With these high-definition and nighttime cams streaming 24/7, viewers are able to follow these herons live, often getting views that scientists rarely see.
“From the very first night, viewers witnessed little-known events, such as herons courting and mating by moonlight,” our director, John Fitzpatrick, said. “They’ve watched live as the herons defended their nest, uttering rarely heard, spine-chilling defensive screams as Great Horned Owls attacked in early morning hours. Even the professionals are gaining new insights from these live cams.”
The nest has survived several Great Horned Owl attacks, as well as a snowstorm that would have buried the nest in snow if not for the parent steadfastly sitting on the eggs. More than half a million people from 166 countries have tuned in so far. Stay tuned for more news, screenshots, and videos as the heron chicks grow. (And if you haven’t seen the hawk chicks over at our Red-tailed Hawk cam, you’ll want to check them out, too.)