Colonial nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons on the San Antonio River Walk

Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society



Yellow-crowned Night Herons (Nyctinassa violacea) typically nest as single pairs or in small colonies of about four pairs with high internest distances. They are also reported as susceptible to disturbance and to avoid habitat with high human use. However, some Yellowcrowned Night Herons habituate to human-dominated landscapes and nest in residential areas. I located a colony of nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons in San Antonio, Texas on the River Walk, a popular tourist destination with an estimated 2.5 million visitors annually. I located 68 and 71 active nests in 2008 and 2009, respectively. This suggests the breeding population of the colony was 142 adult birds (77 adult herons/linear km of River Walk) in 2009. Herons occurred in a colony with three nesting aggregations situated 241 (±14 SD) m apart. Aggregations averaged 23.7 (±8.7 SD) nests each with one–nine nests per tree; nest trees within each aggregation were usually adjacent. Nests averaged 16.7 m (±4.1 SD) above ground, with 56% of nests over the river, 23% over sidewalks, 17% over dining areas, and 3% over landscaping. Only bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) was used for nest trees, and these were significantly taller and larger in diameter than random bald cypress trees. The herons were habituated to pedestrian activities, often perching only a few meters over sidewalks or dining areas, and foraging along the water’s edge as pedestrians passed within 4–5 m. Nests located over dining areas and sidewalks do impose some management issues. It is apparent the species is capable of habituating to human activities to exploit suitable urban settings for nesting and foraging habitat.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Colonial nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons on the San Antonio River Walk
Series title Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society
Volume 43
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Texas Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 4 p.
First page 45
Last page 48
Country United States
State Texas
City San Antonio
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