Blue heron finds sanctuary in Spokane backyard

SPOKANE, Wash – It’s not uncommon to see a blue heron in the Pacific Northwest. What’s not common is one finding a regular meal in a Spokane backyard.

The Cole family first started seeing a bird they nicknamed Blue last winter.

“One day I look out there and there’s a heron, sitting by the pond,” said homeowner Bob Cole. “It had me worried because we have fish out there.”

Still, the Coles didn’t mind their new visitor. In fact, they’d been trying to see one of the big birds up close for some time.

“We’ve always wanted to get pictures of them,” Bob said, saying they’d been out to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge to see some. “You can see them, but to get a good photograph is hard to do. Then, one shows up right in our backyard.”

They’ve gotten plenty of pictures of the heron in their yard, but still worried about those fish in their pond. So, they came up with an alternative meal for Blue.

“We went to Petco to get some goldfish, something to distract the heron from my fish,” Bob explained. “But [I was] grabbing little fish that were like appetizers.”

So, the Coles stepped up and now, every morning, they fill a bowl outside with two big fish from a local market.

Blue waits on the neighbor’s roof, then swoops in and swallows them up.

Sometimes, the bird stays around after the meal. Other times, it takes off to parts unknown. They don’t think it’s the same heron they’ve seen at nearby Cannon Hill Park, but the bird has sometimes gone days without coming back, especially during the deep freeze in late December.

When Blue first arrived last February, the stay lasted several months. The bird disappeared in the summer and showed back up again in November.

“He must have a really good GPS system,” Bob said.

Or just knows where to get a steady meal.