The Great Blue Heron rookery at Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the least known, and uniquely accessible nesting colonies in the state of Wisconsin! In fact, the Devil’s Lake rookery is in a stand of pine trees surrounded by the group camping area with parking lot and restrooms near by. Because the birds selected this location, it is pretty easy for visitors to get a good view of the birds.
Great Blue Heron are pretty cool and they can even be a bit intimidating. 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.
A “rookery” is a colony of nests. Great Blue Heron gather in large colonies each spring, building their nests in the safety of the tree tops. In this way, they can work together to monitor predators such as eagles and owls from above and racoons from below. During the summer season, a heron rookery is a noisy place, 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 park’s rookery is made up of 50 to 100 nesting birds who fill the trees with bursts of noise and havoc. It should be noted that some children might find the experience even a bit scary!
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!!
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.