Birders observing great blue herons in Ontario, Canada, were surprised Tuesday to see a black bear standing in a nest more than four stories up a tree.
“How do I report this on eBird?” photographer Ken MacDonald joked on Facebook, referring to the online sightings database.
MacDonald told For The Win Outdoors that the bear must have climbed “four or five stories” to reach the nest, and while that’s impressive the bear’s motives were sadly clear.
Black bear chose one of the highest nests. Photo: Ken MacDonald
“We couldn’t see chicks in the nest that the bear was sitting in but it did seem to be nosing down into the nest and feeding,” MacDonald said. “The bear was also looking at the nest below and behind it, but it would have had to climb back down and then up another tree to get to that nest.”
Great blue herons establish nesting colonies in treetops and adults can be fiercely defensive while fending off potential predators. But on Tuesday, as MacDonald reported, “The heronry didn’t seem quite as busy as it was earlier in the spring, perhaps for a good reason.”
Black bears are prolific climbers and among their prey items each spring are great blue heron eggs and nestlings.
Black bears sometimes prey on heron nestlings. Photo: Ken MacDonald
MacDonald said adult herons did not so much as swoop on the bear, “though all the birds in the neighborhood were silent and watchful.
“We wondered if some adults might attack the bear as it made its descent but we weren’t able to hang around long enough to see that.”
MacDonald said the bear, being well-fed, might have been content to remain in the nest into or through the night.
The heron nesting colony is in Ontario’s Severn township. The photos appeared on the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists