Black-crowned Night Heron Management & Conservation
To further the conservation and ecological understanding of the state-endangered black-crowned night heron, researchers at the Urban Wildlife Institute are studying the wild night heron colony that has been nesting at Lincoln Park Zoo and the surrounding park since 2010.
In 2010, a colony of roughly 100 members of this species began nesting at the southern end of Lincoln Park Zoo. This species is listed as endangered in Illinois and six other Great Lake states, largely due to population declines related to habitat loss in the region. Now, with upwards of 600 individuals, the Lincoln Park Zoo colony has grown to be the largest in the state of Illinois and has become a fixture of the zoo, nesting primarily over the red wolf habitat at the zoo’s Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo.
For the last 12 years, Urban Wildlife Institute scientists have been monitoring the health, growth, and movement of this population and studying how these birds utilize the Chicagoland urban environment. This work, conducted in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, contributes directly to night heron species management and the advancement of this conservation success story.
Research and Education
The Lincoln Park Zoo heron colony remains a centerpiece of zoo education and research initiatives. Night heron-focused educational programming teaches students of various grade levels about animal migration and the ecology of this state endangered species. Numerous interns have studied the colony as a part of their final research projects. Such projects have investigated preferred nesting height for the night herons as well as their predicted foraging range using data provided by iNaturalist.
Share Your Sightings
Chicago black-crowned night herons are partial migrators that have long ranges, meaning some individuals stay in town year-round whereas others seek warmer winter homes in places as far away as the Caribbean islands. We want to know where these birds hang around throughout the year and need your help. Report your night heron sightings on the popular natural history platform iNaturalist and tag the Urban Wildlife Institute at @urbanwildlifeinstitute or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunt, V.M. (2016). Reproductive success and habitat selection in Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) in a city park. The American Midland Naturalist, 175(2), 168-182.