Supporting At-Risk Great Blue Heron in the North Columbia

Project Year: 2016-2017

View Provincial Database Record

Great Blue Heron: Susie Armishaw

Project Lead

Pandion Ecological Research Ltd.


Columbia Region

North Columbia

Project Type

Research & Information Acquisition

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Species of Interest Action Plan

Project ID


North Columbia Great Blue Heron Inventory and Stewardship

This project provides new information on Great Blue Heron breeding habitat use in the North Columbia Region, and promotes habitat stewardship and securement actions targeting Blue-Listed herons throughout the Columbia Basin. Numbers of heron breeding sites/nests have declined dramatically since surveys of the basin were initiated in 2002, and therefore protection of occupied and suitable breeding sites (in association with traditional foraging areas) is needed to sustain this species.

This project will:

  1. complete a systematic breeding inventory and habitat assessment focusing on the North Columbia,
  2. work with Basin landowners, managers, NGOs and agencies to secure valuable habitat,
  3. improve awareness of heron sensitivities and habitat needs, and
  4. involve volunteers in reporting, monitoring and stewardship.

The North Columbia has never been surveyed for herons therefore, this project is expected to provide a first breeding population estimate for that region, and the Basin as a whole.

It is anticipated that several undocumented occupied/suitable heron breeding (and associated foraging) sites will be identified, whose habitat characteristics and condition will first be described, with current threats and limiting factors. Implementation of prioritized recommendations for follow-up securement, habitat stewardship, restoration and enhancement actions can be planned and initiated, in collaboration with relevant landowners, managers, NGOs, First Nations and government agencies. This will result in habitat stewardship, restoration and enhancement follow-up projects to benefit herons and other dependent species. It will improve wetland/riparian habitat protection via stewardship, restoration or enhancement actions, land acquisition, covenants, landowner agreements, and WHAs. Fostering a stewardship ethic among residents (using herons as a focal point) is a key outcome of this project. The campaign will provide the public with a greater awareness of declining heron trends, sensitivities, and habitat needs.


Final Report: Executive Summary

This report summarizes the results of a two year inventory and stewardship project completed in the Columbia basin from March 2016 to October 2017. The project was intended to provide updated information on heron breeding distribution, population trends and habitat use in the Columbia basin, and to promote habitat stewardship efforts directed at this blue-listed species. Increasing rates of heron nest failure and abandonment in recent years (attributed to eagle harassment and predation) prompted a survey of eagle nest occupancy, to evaluate eagle population trends in critical heron breeding habitats.

Specific project objectives of this project were to: (1) establish a campaign to encourage public reporting of heron sightings and promote awareness of heron sensitivities and habitat needs; (2) complete an inventory of heron breeding sites in the Columbia basin, with emphasis on the North Columbia region, and determine nesting activity and success at occupied sites; (3) summarize the habitat characteristics and condition of occupied heron breeding sites, identify threats and limiting factors, and provide stewardship recommendations; (4) document occupied bald eagle nest locations; (5) provide data on heron wintering activity and for key locations, identify threats and limiting factors, and provide recommendations for stewardship follow-up; (6) conduct stewardship follow-up with landowners, land managers, government agencies, First Nations, NGOs, and the public to promote conservation and stewardship of breeding and key overwintering sites; and (7) provide a report summarizing all project activities, databases, and recommendations.

More than 530 heron sightings were received from 253 volunteers in 2016-2017. This level of public engagement was both inspiring and instrumental in finding several newly heron breeding and roosting sites.

Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database