Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Black-crowned Night Herons Return to Zoo

March 18, 2015

Early this morning, wild, migratory black-crowned night herons were seen for the first time this year returning to their nesting colony near the Zoo's Bird House—their only rookery in Washington, D.C.

It is not known exactly where the Zoo's herons spend the winter but it is likely in the southeastern United States or the Caribbean.

Arrival Dates

Several individuals were seen this morning and were likely "scouts." Scouts usually appear before the colony as if to check that the area is suitable for nesting. They tend to stay for only a few days before departing.

Several weeks later, hundreds of herons begin arriving on Zoo grounds and start nest building in the trees around the Bird House.

The chicks hatch about a month after the nests are built.

It is truly a remarkable event.