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Thursday, April 19, 2012



HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission has launched its periodic colonial nesting waterbird survey and is asking for the public’s assistance now through the end of May. This survey is a key tool to monitor heron and egret populations and their distribution in the state.

“The survey focuses chiefly on great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons and yellow-crowned night-herons, all of which are state Wildlife Action Plan priority species,” said Patti Barber, Game Commission endangered bird specialist. “Many heron colonies have been identified across the Commonwealth, and each needs to be visited to update our information. Residents may know about additional colonies that need to be surveyed to improve our understanding of heron populations and nesting colonies, which can and have changed suddenly in Pennsylvania.

“We are primarily interested in the location of colonies, number of active nests in a colony and the type of habitat they’re found in. Participants also are asked to document threats to colonies.”

Great blue herons are listed as a “maintenance concern” species in the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, because they are fairly secure in Pennsylvania, but for which the Pennsylvania Biological Survey recommends management attention. They still are abundant and fairly secure and serve as an indicator for high-quality habitats.

Yellow-crowned and black-crowned night-herons, both of which are state-listed endangered species, are listed as “Pennsylvania vulnerable” in the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan. These two species are most at risk and are experiencing dramatic declines within Pennsylvania, but are not at risk at the regional, national or global level.

“This survey is not new; it’s conducted periodically about once every five years,” Barber said. “This appeal is being made because participation of the state’s birding community, as well as the general public, will strengthen the survey by providing better coverage of the Commonwealth’s more than 46,000 square miles for nesting herons.

“Together, we can improve this snapshot of Pennsylvania’s current heron population and distribution statewide. The information also will be used to update the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program database and help us to better assess the status of these priority species.”

Barber noted that filling out the survey form is a fairly easy undertaking. Herons are 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,” Barber said. “But, if you know where herons are nesting, we’d appreciate hearing from you. Don’t assume someone else will report local nests.”

To download the Heron Colony Observation Data Sheet, please visit the Game Commission’s website ( and click on the “Help Survey Nesting Herons” icon in the center of the homepage. Those interested in participating should read the “Heron Colony Observation Protocols” to understand how to approach this fieldwork without disrupting nesting herons. Completed forms can be submitted via e-mail to Don Detwiler, who is project coordinator and is managing the survey data, at

For information on the natural history and conservation of night-herons in Pennsylvania, please review the “Endangered and Threatened Species” page on the Game Commission’s website ( under the “Wildlife” section.

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