Six years ago, I found what looked like a baby dinosaur in the woods near my house. I took it home, fed it, and it grew into a sausage consuming, fly swatting, white washing, yoga posing heron, who now visits us once every few days for a free meal!AMA!

Jonathan L. Seagull
May 15, 2017

I hand-reared the little guy from the age of a few weeks. I taught him to fish, and even had to take him away to college with me for a few weeks, which involved putting his 'nest' in the back of my car for a three hour journey. Six years on, he's had three broods of young herons, and is a fascinating visitor to our garden

What is the Vibe of this AMA? What is AMA Vibe?

This AMA has finished, no more comments and questions can be posted and votes submitted to those. Check other similar AMAs here or host your own AMA!

Conversation (124)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

Hi, how hard it is do raise a heron? 

May 17, 7:23AM EDT1

Hi, it's prettydifficult, we were very lucky that we found him when he was still in good shape, and at the perfect age where he was an eating machine. We then had to have a constamt supply of fish, and we would chop these up and feed him by hand several times a day for many weeks. We kept him indoors to begin with, and then put him outside on the balcony, but we would often feel sorry for him when it was raining heavily, so we gave him some shelter!

May 17, 12:27PM EDT1

Great picture!

Last edited @ May 21, 11:27PM EDT.
May 21, 11:27PM EDT0

Do herons make unique sound calls?

May 16, 10:47AM EDT0

Yes, they make loud screeches and squawks. 

May 23, 2:56PM EDT0

Do you enjoy watching birds?

May 16, 12:12AM EDT0

I sure do, when the opportunity arises. I don't do dedicated bird watching trips, but am always interested to see new species. 

May 23, 2:56PM EDT0

What's the difference between a heron and a crane?

May 15, 10:46PM EDT0

Cranes and herons are from different families. They differ in that herons fly with their necks retracted, not outstretched. 

May 23, 2:59PM EDT0

Are there any wildlife regulations to raise herons in your country?

May 15, 8:25PM EDT1

Good question. There are none regarding herons, as theya re not a protected species. However I would never advise anyone to try to look after a wild animal themselves if at all avoidable. Leave it to a wildlife sanctuary unless you really know what you are doing. 

May 15, 8:51PM EDT1

Totally agree. Visited a sanctuary in Costa Rica, I wouldn't want one of these at home. They look cute on TV but caring for one is a totally different story!

May 16, 12:13PM EDT2

Hey Jonathan, what's next for you, Seagull?! Wink wink... lo

May 15, 8:00PM EDT2

Maybe! Who knows what animal we might come across in the future?!

May 15, 9:18PM EDT2

Hi Jonathan thank you for sharing this very coolstory! :) are you saying Ron goes out and comes back every evening for his meal?

May 15, 7:23PM EDT1

Hi Michelle. Yes, he leaves and returns at will. Sometimes we don't see him for a few days, a few times he has been gone for a week or so. In the breeding and nesting season he can come three times a day, to take fish from us to feed to his young. 

May 15, 7:26PM EDT2
Show all 4 replies

What kind of other birds or animals have you saved?

May 15, 11:34AM EDT0

You'll see in my answer to Mark Foster below that we have had a few weird ones over the years. A seal, a raven, and a fancy pigeon. Also rabbits and numerous young chicks, but unfortunately they don't usually make it. 

May 15, 4:21PM EDT1

Can you keep a heron as a pet?

May 15, 11:30AM EDT0

Hi Brad. No, not really. I have heard of one other person who has found a heron chick like we did, and I have seen some videos of rescue centres who have reared chicks to adulthood. But they are very much wild animals, and Ron, our heron, is still a wild bird, but one who appreciates  a free meal.

May 15, 1:40PM EDT1

Does your heron gets aggressive sometimes?

May 15, 10:18AM EDT0

Hi Kim. No, he never gets aggressive towards us, but when he is hungry he is very persistent and won't leave us alone. He will follow behind us as we walk around the yard, or swoop down nearly on top of us from the roof when we walk out the back door! 

May 15, 1:36PM EDT1

ha! sounds like any other bird. My Maccaw used to do that when he was a bitty bird.

May 15, 6:00PM EDT1

Would you recommend to someone else to do what you did and raise a heron?

May 15, 5:44AM EDT0

Hi Brian. If someone were to find a heron chick that had fallen from a nest as we did, then the first course of action would be to try to take it to a professional wildlife rehabilitaion centre. The first thing we did was to contact local tree surgeons, in an attempt to get them to put the chick back on its nest platform. 

They thought we were mad, and said it wasn't feasible anyway, on a very tall, very thin pine tree, with defensive heron parents at the very top!

We were very lucky that the heron was at an age whereby it was an eating machine, and that once we figured out how to feed it, it would eat everyting we gave it. My wife is a zoologist and animal lover, and my father has experience of caring for wildlife. My dad defrosted some razor clams which he had, and we chopped these into thin strips, and fed them to the young bird within an hour of finding him. We were very lucky he survived and thrived, as 90% of the time wild chicks away from their parents won't make it. 

We learned on day one that one had to let him snap his beak onto one's hand, and then push the food into his open maw. We did this for about a week, until he started to snatch the food from us and swallow it himself!

May 15, 1:47PM EDT0

Does he beg for food ?

May 15, 12:49AM EDT0

He is relentless when he has young on the nest, and haunts our house looking for a free meal. We will wake up to him tapping on the bedroom window, and he will come into the house if you leave the door open. Most of the year he visits once every few days, and is not so voracious, but when he has young demanding dinner, he becomes a constant beggar!

Here he is taking a pen from my dad's desk as he tried to work. He then ran across the yard with it and dropped it in the pond! Not so subtle messages!

May 15, 4:20PM EDT1
Show all 6 replies

Herons live in colonies, where are the rest of them?

May 14, 11:38PM EDT1

They are solitary most of the time, and only get together for breeding. The nesting colony or 'heronry' is just a hundred yards from our house. They nest high up in the treetops. The first year we had him he brought some other herons to visit our house, but they were wild and nervous of humans so we never saw them again. 

May 15, 1:53PM EDT1

What did you name the heron?

May 14, 8:39PM EDT0

He's called Ron. He'ron', gettit?!

May 15, 1:54PM EDT1
Show all 3 replies

Do you hunt?

May 14, 8:32PM EDT0

No, I've never hunted and never had any interest in it. My grandfather used to shoot and eat rabbits regularly. If an animal is numerous and not endangered, and the hunter is going to eat what they kill and not over-hunt, then I think hunting is fine. 

May 15, 1:57PM EDT2

Thanks for your answer.

May 16, 12:45PM EDT1

What do they eat besides Sausages?

May 14, 8:22PM EDT0

They eat everything that moves, swims, flies and wriggles! Amphibians, birds, small mammals, fish of every sort and worms. They don't eat any flora though, being strictly 'carnivores'. 

May 15, 4:16PM EDT0
Show all 4 replies

Do you live by a River/Lake?

May 14, 8:19PM EDT1

Yes, we live right beside a stream, and about 200 yards from a large estuary. Prime heron territory!

May 15, 1:58PM EDT3

Wow that's cool! :)

May 15, 7:36PM EDT2

If you have other pets, what are any differences you've noticed between a wild bird and a domesticated one?

May 14, 8:03PM EDT0

We have had other pets, and the most noticeable difference is the incredible instinct that he came pre-programmed with. 

We, in our naivety, decided to 'teach' him to fish when he started to fly around the yard. We put out a tub of live fish and crabs, and left it in the yard below his perch. 

On returning five minutes later, we found him standing in the tub, having devoured every moving thing in it! Having never been shown how to fish, he was already a super-hunter. The speed of a strike is incredible to watch. He will snap a passing fly out of mid air. 

Our proudest moment as heron parents was when we spotted him hunting in our garden. He stuck his head into a bush and pulled out an unlucky rat, which he carried to the pond and held under water. Once it had drowned, he swallowed it whole. A grizzly example of the intuition and instinct of a wild animal. Pics to follow. I too feel sorry for the unsuspecting rat, but it was amazing to see. 

May 15, 4:35PM EDT1
Show all 4 replies

How big do they grow to be?

May 14, 7:44PM EDT0

They weight about 1.5 kilos, standing 1 metre tall, with a wingspan of nearly 2 metres. 

May 15, 4:12PM EDT0

May 15, 5:00PM EDT2

So you're a bird person now?

May 14, 7:30PM EDT1

I certainly am, it has increased my interest in birds and especiallly herons. I spot them everywhere now, as I can recognice their habits and profile very easily. 

May 15, 4:10PM EDT1
Show all 3 replies