Tracking the National Zoo’s night herons

National Zoological Park black-crowned night heron tracking (12-11-13)

Satellite tracking (as of 12-11-13) of black-crowned night herons from their breeding colonies at the National Zoological Park, D.C., to their wintering grounds.

Every spring, approximately 100 black-crowned night herons show up at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to initiate breeding –right here in our own back yard. Although the herons have been nesting here since before the National Zoo was established, we do not know where they spend the winter. Until now! Last August, the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center began a pilot study to unravel this mystery. Three adult herons from the rookery were fitted with satellite transmitters, and we’ve been following them ever since!!

  • “Russ” (in red on the maps) left the breeding site on September 22. Over the next 6 days, it made its way to Fort Meyers, FL -a distance of 1400 km. There it’s stayed.
  • “Clive” (in green) left the breeding site on August 15 but remained in the D.C. area for another two months. On October 16 it started to move: first going to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay and staying for about three weeks, then heading south on November 6. It’s been in northern Florida for the last 23 days.
  • “JoGayle” (in orange) left the breeding site on August 13 but has stayed in the D.C. area since then. It continues to remain in the vicinity of the Georgetown waterfront, and we wait to see what’s in store for this bird.

Next spring, these birds will return to the National Zoo. There, visitors will again witness their breeding activities first-hand. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the current locations of these birds are staging areas or final destinations. One thing is certain, we know more now than we did two months ago! Be sure to check in again at the National Zoo’s website for the next chapter in the lives of these birds.

NZP black-crowned night heron winter locations (12-11-13)

Current winter locations of the National Zoological Park’s black-crowned night herons, as of 12-11-13.

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