Egret chicks put on a show in Mountain View during nesting season

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- A street that passes through Google's Mountain View campus is restricted these days in deference to what's happening overhead. That means a stretch of Shorebird Drive (appropriately named, as you will learn) is restricted to pedestrians and bicycles - and people with binoculars. The trees lining the street have become a nesting colony for egrets and a few herons.

At last count, there are 174 nests with an average of three chicks each. Some are giant egrets. The others are snowy egrets.

"They come back year after year," said Mackenzie Mossing, environmental advocacy associate with the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, "and each year more and more of them are returning, so this is really a protected natural area that they feel safe and welcome."

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Fighting to get fed by mom can get aggressive and vocal.

"Some of the chicks are newly hatched and others are already getting ready to leave the nest," said Mackenzie. "So it just depends on the bird. Most of the great egret chicks are already leaving the nest, where some of the snowy egret chicks are just a few weeks old."

The colony has been here for decades.

The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society started studying the nests in 2005. Five years ago, they convinced the City of Mountain View to close the street during nesting season. Google has done, even more, planting native vegetation and not trimming the trees when the shorebirds are in residence.

On three days this month, docents are on hand so the public can take in the rookery and learn about the birds. The area has now attracted night heron and other birds to nest here, too.

Eight-year-old Gabriella Leong was fascinated by the chicks.

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"They were fighting over some food, I think," she said.

A century ago, egrets were threatened by demand for their feathers to decorate hats.

"This prompted the huge destruction of nesting colonies like here," said Shani Kleinhaus of the Audubon Society. "People would come and just decimate the entire colony and take the feathers."

Egrets are thriving today and putting on quite a show in Mountain View.

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