Egret Rookery at Melrose is Excellent Opportunity to Observe Nature

Egret Rookery at Melrose

You can sit for hours and watch the egrets at the rookery in Melrose

I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than watching the Great Egert rookery at the lake across from the Melrose Golf Club.

The first time I ever saw a rookery was several years ago around Easter. I was new to the island and Terri Painter loaded me into her pick-up truck telling me, “I’ve got something you’ve just GOT to see. ” We drove deep into the woods and arrived at a lake somewhere in the historic district. (I bet I couldn’t find that spot today if my life depended on it). I was absolutely astounded to see all the trees surrounding the lake dotted with beautiful white birds with fabulous feathery plumes. They were Great White Egrets. Terri explained that this was called a rookery which is a community where birds such as Great Egrets court, mate, build their nests and hatch their eggs.

Blue Egret Eggs

Blue Egret Eggs photo by Dr. Clontz

At the first rookery I visited with Terri, we were able to get close enough to the trees to find nests sheltering beautiful blue eggs. They literally looked as if they came fresh out of some child’s Easter basket. What a sight to behold!

Great Egrets usually lay three eggs with a clutch size that ranges from one to six eggs. Although most birds don’t start incubating until the full clutch is laid, the Great Egrets start incubating as soon as the first egg is laid. Eggs in a nest, therefore, will start hatching at different times, about 25 days from when they were laid. Both the male and female take turns incubating and feeding the chicks.

Gator and Egret at Melrose Rookery

Neighbors sharing space at the rookery at Melrose

Alligators are often found at rookeries where they patrol for unfortunate chicks who have fallen from their nests. Lest you be upset, it’s also a fact that egrets eat alligator hatchlings! Egret chicks who survive pedators such as alligators leave the nest in six to seven weeks. The birds reach maturity at two years, and can live for twenty-two years.

Egret at Melrose Lake

During courting season, the egrets take on beautiful plumes and bright colors around their eyes known as lores. They lose both once the babies leave the nest. Here’s a great website with more information about the Great Egret.

 ** A rookery provides a great opportunity to observe nests, but it’s important to avoid disturbing the birds in any way. Rookeries are often considered protected areas to keep the birds safe while raising their young.

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