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.
The Zoo's herons spent the winter in the southeastern United States, some as far as Cuba.
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.