HOLMES BEACH — Two rescued baby blue herons are “doing fine and eating like pigs.”
That was the observation Tuesday of Gail Straight of Wildlife Inc., who has been taking care of the chicks since their nest was displaced when the tree it was in was cut down.
“We found three,” Straight said, “but one had a broken wing and internal injuries and died within a couple of hours.”
The nest was in a stand of Australian pines being removed for improvement at the Kingfish Boat Ramp on the north side of Manatee Avenue at the western end of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.
Ed Straight, Gail’s husband and partner in the 23-year-old animal rescue operation, said he got a call at about 10:15 a.m. Feb. 14 about the birds and sent a volunteer out to pick them up.
“When I got there, branches were scattered around and the tree trunk was cut and stacked,” Straight said. “But the nest was sitting on the seawall where the neighbors said they found it when they called us.”
He said the volunteer found the birds still in the nest when he arrived.
The tree removal was done as part of the seawall repair work Manatee County had contracted to have done at the boat ramp.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who lives in Holmes Beach. “These people didn’t do it intentionally but should have been more careful.”
Holmes Beach resident and animal lover Lynda Heimburger said it “just made me sick” when she found out about the chicks, especially the one that died.
“They should have been more careful,” Heimburger said. “Anyone could have seen the nests.”
She said the county, as well as the contractor, should have checked to see if there were any nests before cutting the trees.
“Let’s see how they pass the buck,” Heimburger said. “This is a big deal, not only the state but the federal agency is checking into it.”
She said she heard it was a violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which can result in a fine up to $15,000 and six months in jail.
The blue heron is a federally protected bird species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site, and the treaty protects migratory species.
Janet Ryder, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Law Enforcement Division office in Groveland, said the agency’s policy was to not to confirm or deny whether an investigation into any incident was in progress.
Gail Straight said her organization will care for the two chicks until they are able to fend for themselves in the wild.
“Their parents feed them for quite a while,” she said. “We’ll have them for two to three months.”
Raising the chicks is not a problem. They will learn to eat and fly on their own, Straight said.
The real problem will be finding a location to release them because other blue herons are very territorial and will attack them, she said.