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About the Heron Cam

Horicon Marsh is the site of both a State Wildlife Area and National Wildlife Refuge, a Wetland of International Importance and a Globally Important Bird Area. Not to mention, it’s also home to more than 300 species of birds, including the majestic great blue heron.

The camera is placed on the Fourmile Island Rookery State Natural area within the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. Fourmile Island is home to an artificial heron rookery placed there by employees of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The LIVE feed will be running April -July.

This camera is operated on the support of gifts and donations, if you are interested in supporting this project, contact Bret Owsley at bret.owsley@wisconsin.gov. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin gave $1,000 through the C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program to the Friends of Horicon Marsh in support of the live camera. Other donors include the Wisconsin DNR, local schools and donors to the Friends of Horicon Marsh. 

Cool Heron Facts:

  • The oldest heron on record was 24 years old based on banding data. However, 69% of all young herons do not survive their first year. Of those that do, most will live to be about 15 years old.
  • The average heron wingspan is a whopping 65 – 80 inches!
  • A heron will only weigh about 4-7 pounds. While they look to be much larger, their bones are hollow to enable flight.
  • Herons maintain an average flying speed of 20-30 mph.

Great Blue Heron Nest Camera FAQ

Question: Why is the nest on a man-made platform?

Answer: Typically, Great Blue Herons like to nest in trees. Unfortunately for them, their guano piled up and destroyed their own habitat. Then, in the 1990’s a wind storm further devastated the trees used for nesting on the island. In 1992-1993, in an effort to assist the birds, the WI DNR then erected nesting platforms on utility poles that range from 40 to 60 feet high which you are seeing them nest on today! There appear to be about 200 active nests on the island this year!

Question: What is the typical diet of the Great Blue Heron?

Answer: The Great Blue Heron will eat nearly anything with striking distance including fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, insects and even mammals! We have observed a Great Blue Heron dining on a small muskrat. They swallow their food whole and sometimes run the risk of choking to death on too large of prey.

Question: Do Great Blue Herons mate for life?

Answer: Not exactly. These birds are usually monogamous for one breeding season and they very well may choose another mate the following year.

Question: How many eggs will each heron lay?

Answer: A typical nest will consist of 2-6 eggs. The eggs are laid in 2 day intervals. The male and female will take turns incubating the eggs and protecting their nest. Eggs can be left without incubation for approximately 6 minutes each hour, depending on the weather.

Question: How long will it take for the eggs to hatch?

Answer: The eggs will be incubated for approximately 27-29 days. The first chicks to hatch will be more experienced in food “handling” and therefore may grow quicker and be more aggressive.