Sunday's tornado destroyed great blue herons rookery

Injured heron
An injured heron is seen at the North Mississippi Regional Park Heron Rookery on May 22, 2011. The rookery was heavily damaged when a tornado swept through the area during a weekend storm.
Photo by Sharon Stiteler

The tornado that ripped through north Minneapolis Sunday destroyed the great blue heron rookery in the Mississippi River.

North Mississippi Regional Park, just upstream from downtown Minneapolis, includes an island that's been host to nearly two-hundred great blue heron nests.

National Park Ranger Sharon Stiteler said the tornado knocked down all the old cottonwoods, and destroyed all the nests. She said nearly all the chicks died, but the adults flew for safety before the tornado hit.

"In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor thing that parents have evolved to deal with: they build flimsy nests, the nests fall apart and they can handle a one-time tragedy like this," Stiteler said.

"They get the summer off, don't have to take care of chicks, and they'll re-nest next year."

Stiteler said they'll probably move to a spot near the Coon Rapids dam, or to another rookery at Pig's Eye Lake in St. Paul.

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