Black-Crowned Night Herons Arrive Early

Black-crowned night herons have returned to Lincoln Park! On Wednesday, March 14, we saw the first three adults resting in some trees on the island in the pond at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

In previous years, adult black-crowned night herons have arrived at Nature Boardwalk around the beginning of April. However, in keeping with our months-long trend of seeing slightly offseason birds—probably due to the extremely mild winter—the herons have arrived considerably earlier this year. (A few juveniles seem to have spent the majority of the winter at the site.)

Scientists at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute have studied black-crowned night herons near Nature Boardwalk for the last two years. Herons show high nest site fidelity, meaning they tend to return to the same place to breed year after year. Lincoln Park Zoo has records of them breeding in the area since 2007.

Because of the Urban Wildlife Institute's long-term study, we’ll be able to see how this historically mild winter and warm spring influence the timing of certain milestones in the birds’ breeding season, such as evidence of the first hatchlings. We already know they’re getting started earlier than in previous years.

Black-crowned night herons are endangered in Illinois. Lincoln Park Zoo works together with the Chicago Park District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to ensure the birds have an opportunity for a successful breeding season in such a highly urban area. Last year there were about 400 adult black-crowned night herons at the population's peak. We’ll have to wait and see what happens this year, but so far we're off to an early start!

Vicky Hunt


Is the double fencing up yet? If so when, & on what day did it
go up? Is any proactive strategy being taken to save the ASH
trees in the PROMENADE? Like drilling holes at the base and
injecting them with the formula the city forestry workers are
using as a preemptive measure to save ASH trees?
The Black Crowns favor the ASH trees over the Lindens.
Did they fix that busted up park bench on the West side
of the PROMENADE? Vicky you know the Black Crowns use those
benches to learn how to fly. As of Sunday April 22, there were only about 60 birds on campus. Are there more now?
Thanks for answering my questions. Spooner

Spooner, hundreds of black-crowned night herons have returned to the allee area near Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. In 2010 and 2011 more than 400 birds nested at that location.

The Chicago Park District will soon be putting up fencing. They would be the best resource to contact on that issue as well as the bench and tree maintenance.

Four crowned herons (2 couples) moved across North LaSalle. They are nesting to the west of the Lincoln memorial in the trees directly above where the garbage cans are. Is the zoo aware of this new development? I saw them building their nests last week (4-18). They seem to have settled in for the season.

Thanks for the note. We take every precaution to ensure the wildlife in and around the zoo is provided with a healthy environment. We cooperate with the Chicago Park District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to monitor sensitive and endangered wildlife, specifically the nesting black-crowned night herons, to ensure their protection and safety.

As of 1PM May 1st, 2012 170 Black Crowns at the Allee
Aprox. 65 nests. 1 squirrels' nest (bold little chap).
lots of small song birds. I did not get over to the pond
but there are two nests above the garbage cans to the
west of Abe Lincoln, behind the Historical Society. Terry
was spot on. Good eye Terry!
Hopefully the Park District will take note and put a
fence around those trees. They are all worth saving in my
I actually witnessed two birds mating in the tenth
tree from the South, East side- an ASH tree.
Lots of traffic under the trees, joggers, dogs etc.
It is really way past the time to get those fences up!
Met some nice people from around town and Seattle
Wash. They are all pulling for the Black Crowns!
How about that fencing you promised.
Godspeed, Spooner

Why are the black crowned night herons here and where are they coming from?

HN, black-crowned night herons started nesting in the area in 2007. Since the species shows high site fidelity, they often return to the same nesting site every year.

Like many species, black-crowned night herons can head south to warmer climes in winter.

Hi -- is LPZ monitoring the breeding annex by the Lincoln Memorial? A new nesting site this season, not protected by fencing. Is this in part because birds hatched and fledged here will return to this location, so there's an expansion of the nesting sites? Tonight at dusk you could hear the youngsters chipping away like mad, seemingly increasing in volume when an adult flew back to the allee. And those adult birds -- they were working hard flying back and forth. It seems like they tended to fly out low over the eastern end of the zoo towards the lake at Fullerton. I wondered where they were going for food for their noisy youngsters. What a great way to get far away from the city, right here in town.

Saw a bunch of them yesterday in the trees on the west side of the Lincoln Statue behind the Historical Society. They're HUGE...and what a racket they made. Tons of poop all over the ground there as well. What's funny is that none of the hundreds of gawkers knew what they were, including myself....until I saw this website.

Thanks for sharing Marvino!

A juvenile is in distress this morning. Hanging over the back of one of the benches on the west side. Perhaps heat distressed but it would seem to be on the brink of death.

Learning how to fly is a very tiring process for fledgling birds, and these birds often need to take a break to recover. When we saw this bird this morning we were also concerned, but this afternoon the heron flew off of the bench on the west side that it had been standing/laying on this morning. LPZ staff have been monitoring the birds daily and are paying special attention to the juveniles that are on the ground below the allee. If you ever see a heron that needs attention do not attempt to approach it yourself; please leave it to trained professionals. LPZ staff check on these birds multiple times daily, and if it is determined that an individual is having problems we go through the proper channels to collect and care for the bird. Thank you for your concerns about the Black-crowned Night Herons.

Mason Fidino, Coordinator of Wildlife Management

I saw one of these birds yesterday, August 15th, 2012, along the Des Plaines river in Des Plaines. I was riding a bike with my daughter along the DPRT and I saw a bird out of the corner of my eye resting on a tree trunk in the water. We got off the bikes to get a closer look and I saw a black-crowned night heron. I am positive I was able to identify the bird because I've seen one once before along the north branch of the Chicago river, along resting on a tree trunk jutting into the river. At the time I didn't know what it was but upon further research I learned what it was. I think there are more of these birds around than people think, because I've seen two of these endangered birds, in two different locations, both far northwest of lincoln park.

Interesting sighting--thanks for sharing!

Saw 2 heron chicks walking around the Lincoln statue on Wednesday (September 5). They must be from the nest to the right of the statue since the nests on the left have been empty for a while. I didn't notice any adult herons around so I will keep my fingers crossed that they will survive. I didn't see them yesterday. I hope they were strong enough to migrate with or without adult supervision.

I believe just saw one of those chicks that "Terry [Visitor]" was talking about last night, about forty yards east of the Lincoln statue (Just South and East of the underpass). It was doing well and looked like it was foraging for some food. It still had it's juvenile feathers. I was wondering when they migrate... it has to be about that time. Hopefully everything turns out well for this chick and it's sibling.

There is a family of black crown herons living in the tree abouve the Lincoln statue on north ave and lasalle

I already left word on another LPZ site, but I thought I would add it here too.

We saw a black crowned heron this morning around 10 AM in a tree at the very south end of North Pond.

Thanks for the note, Mindy! Our scientists have been spotting them as well, as you can see from this tweet from last week:

Saw one on the Fresh Meadow Golf Course, Wolf Rd & Cermak yesterday by the small pond off the 3rd hole.

Well they are back again, im working at the wilmette harbor Off the north branch and seen a black crowned night heron yesterday and was amazed by how big he was and actually saw him dive after a fish, it was awesome. My coworker and I didnt know what it was til today, and thought i would post here to let anyone know they are back in 2013 woot

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