Westchester's Only Great Blue Heron Rookery In Bedford, Nature Group Say

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The Great Blue Heron may be the most common North American heron, but it is rare in Westchester. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- A colony of great blue heron has made Bedford its home for the season in a remote, yet visible wooded area that Naturalist Tait Johansson says is the only place in all of Westchester that you will find the large birds.

Photo Album Great Blue Herons Nest, Breed, Incubate In Bedford

There are about 20 blue herons nests at a rookery - or colony of breeding animals - on Route 121 just past the intersection with Route 137.

Some of the birds could still be seen this week building nests high up in the barren trees, flanked by a swampy surface with dead trees. The tall bird with an S-shaped neck and long legs usually settles near water or in a marsh and preys on fish, frogs, mice and even other birds.

"This rookery started two years ago," said Johansson, who works at the Bedford Audobon Society in Katonah. "It's something interesting. A lot of people have called here asking about it."

The Katonah resident and lifelong bird admirer said not all of them have migrated back north to the Bedford rookery. He said the birds you see now are adults, who will breed and then incubate their eggs in the nest for about a month - he added that they're not as interesting to observe while incubating since they mostly stay in the nest.

After incubation, the baby birds stay in the nest for about 80 days. Both parent and child then roam around the area until the cold weather forces them south. Smaller birds incubate for about two weeks, and stay in the nest for another two weeks, Johansson said.

"Their colonies shift but they'll come back to the same area," he said, adding that the colony seems to have grown since last year. "It's pretty noticeable."

While the great blue heron is the most common and largest North America heron - measuring anywhere between 3.2 to 4.5 feet tall with a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.6 feet - Johansson said they aren't common in Westchester.

"There aren't too many breeding colonies in our area," he said. "Farther north there seem to be more."
The great blue heron is also territorial and Johansson advises anyone who goes to take a look to not get too close.

An employee at Blind Charlie's in nearby Pound Ridge said he has a great blue heron stalking the koi pond at his home. He bought a fake blue heron to scare it away, but the hungry bird grew wise to the ploy and returned. 

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Comments (15)

I may be wrong, but I don't believe he's saying this is the only place to see herons,but it may be the only rookery...

There is a rookery on Long Island and every morning many fly over to Rye and then disburse throughout our area for feeding on local ponds. They then return to Rye and back over the sound to Long Island at night.

Yeah, I don't think that's the only place in Westchester. I see them over in the Hudson by Camp Smith.

We see them quite frequently in North Salem in the marsh by RT116 and Hilltop Dr.; no idea where their nest is. We live close by. They come fishing in our pond.

We have a rare rookery here in Marina Del Rey. They are magnificent - we've been watching them return to their nests, mate and raise little ones since we moved here from NYC six years ago. During nesting season there are often several of them on our roofs at dawn, and they soar overhead bringing reeds and twigs to their mates to repair the nest each year. It's quite a sight : )

A Majestic Beautiful Bird...They probably flew out of "Heron Cay" my home in Vero Beach...after hearing me brag some often about the rural natural expanse wetlands that abound in and around the Katonah & surrounding hamlets...

We install many ecosystem ponds here in Westchester and Fairfield counties.
The Blue Heron is our #1 predator. We use a electronic eye that when triggered will disperse water and scare the bird.
You can tell those birds to go south for the Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.

Predators might be unwanted but they are a vital part of any ecosystem. It's unfortunate that you can't appreciate the beauty of this majestic bird, and you find the need to take the opportunity to plug your business and an obnoxious man-made "electronic eye" in your so-called ecosystem ponds. Doesn't sound very "eco" friendly to me. Most of us who choose to live here come for the natural beauty of the place, predators and all.

By the way, a great article, Brian - thank you for bringing this to our attention!

Melanie, I appreciate all living creatures in this world.
You obviously are not a fish lover or you would understand my view and the view of thousands of pond owners on how this bird can devastate a pond. Alligators are also part of an ecosystem and I appreciate them as I do the Blue Heron however, it would be in the best interest of homeowners to keep them away from their property.
You are certainly entitled to your mean spirited opinion. Funny, it never occurred to me that I was plugging my business. Thanks for the advertisement.

I'm glad to hear that you do, Tom, because your first post did not imply that at all, and I was merely pointing that out. I'm sorry that you feel I was being mean-spirited - I was simply making an observation. Anyone who knows me knows that is not my nature and moreover I, do in fact, love fish. My husband and I built a pond in our backyard in which I intended to house koi, but decided not to because of the maintenance when living in the country bordering on a Preserve and all that comes with it (read: Predators, you are correct). I just found it odd (and actually mean-spirited on your part, in fact) that Brian wrote a fabulous article informing the community about such a wonderful treasure of nature that is right here in our backyard, making multiple references to the Audubon Society and their knowledge and work in this area (the Blue Heron is practically the Society's mascot), and you spoke of keeping all the birds out of our region if possible and spitting water at the ones that are here. You decide what is mean-spirited in this scenario.

Oh, and if you get any business from this, good for you - I saw your website and your work is beautiful.

Mubbie -- I totally agree with you. I absolutely LOVE these birds. The are magnificent.

What a interesting story.