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Help Needed for Heron Colony Observation Survey

 

The Pennsylvania Game Commission gathers heron colony observations to help improve its ability to monitor heron populations and their distribution in the state. The survey focuses chiefly on the great blue heron, and the state-endangered black-crowned night-heron and yellow-crowned night-heron, which are Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan priority species. Although many heron colonies have been documented across the Commonwealth, it's possible that you know about colonies that we don't. Your input could improve our understanding of heron populations and nesting colonies in Pennsylvania.

Great blue herons are secure in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Biological Survey recommends management attention due to their colonial nesting behavior. They also serve as an indicator for high-quality habitats. Yellow-crowned and black-crowned night-herons are noted as high priorities for conservation action in the Wildlife Action Plan because they are species most at risk and/or are experiencing the most dramatic declines within Pennsylvania, but are not at risk at the regional, national or global level.

The Commonwealth has more than 46,000 square miles for nesting herons. Together, we can assess the status of Pennsylvania's current heron populations and create a "snapshot" of the distribution of nesting herons statewide. The information will be used to update the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program database and also enable biologists to better understand the status of these priority species.

Filling out the survey form is an easy undertaking. It helps that herons are pretty interesting and large enough to be easily observed and identified at a distance. Their nests should be monitored with binoculars from a safe distance. Please do not approach nests. For information on the natural history and conservation of night-herons in Pennsylvania, please review the Endangered and Threatened Species section.

If you know where herons are nesting, we'd appreciate hearing from you. Don't assume someone else will report local nests. To get started, please download the Heron Colony Observation Data Sheet (PDF), and read the Heron Colony Observation Protocol (PDF) to ensure you're approaching this fieldwork in a way that will help science and not disrupt nesting herons. Submit your completed survey forms to: heron@pa.gov.

We are primarily interested in the location of active nests, the type of habitat they're found in, and the layout of the colony. The survey also asks participants to document threats to nesting colonies. Thank you in advance for your willingness to help us with this important survey and to spend time helping our wild birds. Herons can never have too many friends.