Return of the Black-crowned Night Herons

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A black-crowned night heron spotted near the Museum in May 2022. Photograph by CHM staff

Black-crowned night herons (BCNH) have been spotted nesting once again near the Chicago History Museum. These herons typically migrate back to Illinois in April and lay eggs in May and June in deciduous trees like those found to the north and east of the Museum building.

The BCNH is an endangered species in Illinois, with populations declining likely due to habitat loss. According to the Audubon Society, they are found on shores in a variety of aquatic environments and often roost in trees, likely to avoid predators. Their name refers to the fact that they become more active at dusk.

In 2007, a colony of BCNH established itself in the south end of Lincoln Park, and over the years they have shifted their nesting locations, including near the standing Lincoln monument and Couch Tomb.

Last fall, CHM in partnership with the Chicago Park District and support of neighborhood groups completed its project to transform the 4.5 acres of park space outside the building into a more beautiful, educational, and welcoming space for all. This included opening the Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail, an interpretive path that explores aspects of Chicago’s personality.

The project also included habitat enhancement by planting 150 young trees and large beds of native plants to attract birds and other pollinators to the area. These additions were chosen to improve the space and its native flora, creating a new destination at Lincoln Park’s southwest corner.

We invite you to stroll through the trail and park space now that summer is in bloom. Note: the trail does not run through the BCNH’s established nesting site, so please take care on your visit.

A black-crowned night heron spotted near the Museum in May 2022. Photograph by CHM staff

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