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Tornado in Minneapolis destroys heron rookery

Just like humans, birds and wildlife are not immune to the catastrophe of disasters.

We saw it when 110,000 seabirds were killed in the recent tsunami. We’re still seeing it with the BP oil spill. We also saw it when a freighter crash in the South Atlantic threatened penguins.

Once again, as deadly tornadoes raged across states like Missouri and Minnesota, people were killed, homes were ravaged and lives were changed. While it’s unimaginable for others to understand what they are going through, people are not the only victims of these natural disasters.

It’s being reported in The Star Tribune that a tornado in Minneapolis took out a whole rookery of Great Blue Herons along the Mississippi River.

At the same time people were surveying the damage done to their homes on Monday, the Great Blue Herons were flying in circles around the spot the rookery and their occupied nests once stood.

Reports from the heartbreaking scene described the birds as confused over what happened to the nests. Although there were a lot of adult birds that were able to escape, an estimated 180 nests were destroyed and at least 60 chicks confirmed dead (many more are thought to have been thrown into the river and drowned).

Sharon Stitelar, a ranger at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, was sad at the loss of the rockery because of its ability to connect people with nature. She also said:

“The rookery was a valuable resource for our canoe programs,” Ranger Stiteler said on Tuesday. “It was just a few miles north of the downtown area of Minneapolis and right on one of the major Twin Cities highways. It was a testament to how adaptable birds can be to urban areas, and that if we take care of our river, we can live together with these large graceful birds.”

Since the tornadoes, the herons have abandoned the island because there are very few trees left and found no sign of their nests. Volunteers and wildlife rehabilitators are taking in all the injured heron adults and chicks they find in an effort to try to get them back out there. Although Great Blue Herons are not endangered, their numbers in that area might dwindle a little because of the tornado and destruction of the rookery.

It will definitely take time, but hopefully the herons, like all the people affected by the tornadoes, will make a full comeback to the area.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.