Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron chicks

Photo: Dane Adams

An adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Nyctanassa violacea, stands sentinel in its big sycamore tree in a very suburban Columbus, Ohio neighborhood. Ace photog Dane Adams stopped by the site yesterday and took some outstanding documentary photos of one of Ohio's very few known nesting pairs of these interesting herons.

Photo: Dane Adams

These night-herons have been nesting in their Bexley suburbanscape for many years now, and the nests - I believe there are two, at least there were the last time I made it by - resemble overgrown Mourning Dove nests. The stick platforms have become somewhat larger and bulkier with each passing nesting season, and this one has gained considerable mass since the birds first began to breed at this site. I covered this story a few years ago in more detail, you can read it RIGHT HERE.

Flimsy abode or not, it obviously suffices to support a clutch of night-heron eggs, and later, the gangly offspring. As we can see from Dane's photo, there are four awkward-looking big-billed heronlets in the nest, curiously peering about.

Photo: Dane Adams

The young herons may not be much to look at at this point, but they'll morph into one of our most beautiful waders, at least the males will. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is an extremely rare bird in Ohio, and is listed as threatened in the state by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. A compelling argument could be made for upgrading the species to endangered. There has been only one other confirmed nesting in the past few years, and a half-dozen possible but unconfirmed reports. They are at the extreme northern limits of the breeding range here; yellow-crowneds become common as one moves southward into the southern states, the Caribbean, and coastal areas (primarily) of Mexico and Central and South America.

It shouldn't be long and these little bulbous-billed wonders will be out and about, fishing for their own crayfish in nearby Alum Creek. Hopefully this nesting site will continue to be used for many years to come.

Thanks, as always, to Dane Adams for freely sharing his work with us.

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