Return of the Heron

Return of the Heron

The Great Blue Heron have returned to their rookery on the south side of Devil’s Lake State Park.  Once again the rookery (nesting site) is filled with the sounds of falling branches, wings slapping on tree bows and of course the loud, crazy, heron calls that sound to us more like pterosaurs than modern birds.  The return of the heron is an exciting marker of the arrival of spring at Devil’s Lake State Park!

Now, to understand why the return of the heron is exciting to so many people, you’ll want to know a bit more about the Great Blue Heron.  The heron is a BIG, LOUD, BUSY bird. A Great Blue Heron can stand up to 4′ 5″ feet tall and sports a wingspan that can reach 6 ½ feet!  In the air, heron can fly nearly 25 mph! They are stealthy predators with scissor-like beaks that they use to stab frogs and snakes in shallow ponds and along the banks of bigger waters. The park’s rookery is made up of 50 to 100 nesting birds who fill the trees with bursts of noise and havoc. Some children might find the experience even a bit scary!

Heron Poop - Devil's Lake State Park

Don’t go under the nests!

What’s unique here at Devil’s Lake, is that the heron built their rookery in a stand of pine trees surrounded by the group camp area with parking lot and restrooms. Because the birds selected this location, it is much easier for visitors to get up close and personal.

It is against the law to disturb a rookery, however visitors can get amazingly close right in the CCC parking lot [Printable Map] or by standing near the restrooms.  A good rule-of-thumb is to simply stay out of the pines.  You really don’t want to go in there anyway.  Not only does it get filled with bird poop, but the favorite defense of the heron is to throw up on you.  Imagine smelly, fish, snake & frog barf dropping down from the sky onto your head!!! And if that’s not enough, heron have also been known to use their beaks to pierce the skulls of invaders!! 

Great Blue Heron - Devil's Lake State Park

The heron will now be at the park all summer raising their young in the tops of the trees.  To see them, simply take south shore road over to the CCC parking area by the group camp.  They’re not hard to find, you’ll hear them as soon as you get out of the car! While the birds are fairly close, you’ll enjoy the experience more with even a basic pair of binoculars.  Have fun, and remember to stay back.. just a bit. 🙂

If you’d like to see more heron and other animal pictures check out our “Critters” Pinterest board.

Learn More About Great Blue Heron



  1. Joe Warnemuende

    I think the picture at the top of this page is not a heron, but a crane. (Observe the neck position)

    1. Author

      Hi Joe, Yep. I actually took that shot at the rookery at Devil’s Lake. Although the idea of a “cooked neck” is a good rule of thumb, it’s not always the case. Other indicators from below would be that Great Blue Heron have orange beaks and orange(ish) legs, Cranes are black in both cases. GBH also have their specialized rough looking feathers on their chests that you can often see if they are low enough to the ground as well. 🙂

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