A black-crowned night heron fledgling rests between attempts at flight.
The black-crowned night herons are always a wonderful sight at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Heron chicks have been heard in the area since early May. Finally, now, a number of them are trying to figure out how to fly.
For the first year of their life, black-crowned night herons are brown in color and have orange eyes. Afterward their adult plumage comes in, and they gain the characteristic black crown on their head. The individual above was spotted by scientists at the Urban Wildlife Institute as the bird tried to take flight from the benches underneath the trees in the fenced-in area next to Nature Boardwalk.
Fledging is a very tiring process for these young birds, and you will often see them taking a break between attempts in the grass beneath the trees. We’re hoping that in the next few days this heron will work out the kinks and fly over to Nature Boardwalk for a snack!
An adult black-crowned night heron returns with a branch to repair its nest. Photo by Roy Slovenko
With all the heron chicks around there’s plenty of work for the adult black-crowned night herons. You can consistently see adult herons flying back toward the colony with branches in their beaks, which they use to repair nests, and there are always a few trying to catch some fish near the island at Nature Boardwalk. With all that’s going on, there are some great opportunities to get photos of these state-endangered birds.
Mason Fidino is coordinator of wildlife management in Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute.