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Do herons fly south for the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Do herons fly south for the winter?

Do herons fly south for the winter?
Bobby – Milwaukee, WI

Herons are migratory birds, and they have no appreciation for cold weather. So if you’re located in the cooler northern climes – particularly where ponds tend to freeze during the winter months – you’ll usually notice their absence when temperatures start to drop. Like many of us would like to do during winter, herons that choose to migrate will head for Central America and northern South America to warm up and fill up on fish. If you live in warmer portions of the United States, however, you may see herons all year ‘round, provided there’s enough open water and food to keep them happy.

While they’re beautiful to watch, herons are often unpopular with pond keepers – particularly those who have stocked their pond well. Herons consider fish as their favorite snack, and a single bird will happily devour every available fish, leaving the pond empty, and the pond’s owner grumpy. Herons aren’t picky eaters, though, and they’ll also snack on feeder fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, grasshoppers and even dragonflies.

Fortunately, herons don’t hunt in flocks. When they spot a pond that’s already been claimed by another enterprising heron, they’ll typically fly elsewhere. That’s why we strongly recommend our Great Blue Heron Decoy as a simple way to discourage hungry herons from settling in for an uninvited visit.

Without preventative measures – like a well-placed and regularly relocated decoy – a heron will settle in as long as food is available. Otherwise, only cold temperatures, which send fish to the warmer water layers at the bottom of the pond and other food sources to their winter lairs, will encourage a heron to move on.

Pond Talk: Do herons continue to visit your pond throughout the fall and winter or more on?

Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy

12 Responses

  1. I have used the fishing line for years it also lets you know if you’ve had a visitor by the broken lines, they still try to walk in from the sides so string the line around the outside also, we have had the herons till Dec. in our area in Illinois

  2. I say keep on flyin Herons!! They took my prize koi last year. They have a presence all year long and I live in southern maryland. The decoy doesnt work. Matter of fact I have a picture of the blue herron standing next to the decoy. We have black netting on now but that sounds like a good idea with the fishing line as I have had frogs get caught in the netting and die.

  3. I use 3 ft vinyl clad fence around my koi pond and cant see. Heron cant walk/fly in. Netting tried but looks silly with supports..it is 14ft diam, 3.5 ft deep. Have 1 acre pond with Heron problem and tried decoys.. have to relocate often with according to pond guy..if i dont get down to it and say i it might work if i have time to move every week or so. These guys ate alot, but think i had river otter problem which is another problem..they will eat their own weight in one day…and love little farm ponds!!!

  4. In Mt Laurel NJ the heron visit all winter. It is tuff keeping them away in cold weather or warm weather. I have tried everything from decoy sprinklers to decoy birds. Good luck

  5. Here in Delaware all the herons leave for the winter except for the Great Blue, and that one’s not picky about where it chooses to feed. More than once I’ve caught it just before sunrise trying to grab goldfish from my tiny backyard pond. Like you, Mary Lou, nothing seems to work but the mesh net. At least that serves a dual purpose by keeping falling leaves out of the pond this time of year.

  6. We are on Maryland’s eastern shore and if the larger ponds are frozen over, the resident heron will visit our backyard pond to do some fishing. We have tried the decoy with no luck. A black mesh net, which spoils the look of our water feature, seems to be the only certain solution.

    • Try the fishing line;you can see it, but it’s not as noticeable as the netting.

    • We live near the river and herons visited regularly. Have to have a black net over the pond which is not large to keep hawks, herons, racoons out. The dog chased one heron that was coming almost every day and he didn’t come back that we ever saw. Now have a wussy dog that wouldn’t do more than bark so that probably wouldn’t work with this one.

      Hawks camped out this summer on the bird feeder and watched the fish and then found a large one with part of his head gone stuck in the netting trying to swim. Had to be a hawk.

  7. Our herons are still here in southern NH, so I guess it’s not cold enough yet.

    I’ve had great luck with stringing clothesline completely around the pond, stream and a small island about 2 feet off the ground to keep them at bay. It looks awful, but I only do it in the early Spring before the plants come in. The herons definitely do not like stepping over it, though they will sneak underneath on occasion. I don’t use fishing line because I’m concerned about other birds running into that. Herons also don’t like our barking Brittany Spaniel which seems to think a heron is the creepiest creature on the planet.

    This time of year, our fish are down at the bottom already (6 feet deep) so the heron is pretty much out of luck. He typically comes during the day, but just 3 nights ago I found him out there in the dark. Ever hoping.

  8. I have had luck using fishing line as a deterrent to herons. I string the line from corner to corner and side to side. I am told that they sense the line (it’s not always easy to see) and feel their wings may become entangled in it. I also string line around the perimeter to keep the geese away. The ducks, however, have no such fear; they fly in landing smack in the middle, which often breaks the line. But the ducks don’t bother the fish.

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