State-Endangered Night Herons Find Refuge in Urban Harrisburg
Friday, July 9, 2021
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Some rare birds that have called Harrisburg's tall sycamore trees home are taking flight this week.
Yellow-crowned night herons have found unexpected habitat in Harrisburg's urban Midtown neighborhood.
The species was deemed endangered by the state in 1999.
Sean Murphy, state ornithologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the herons were first spotted in Harrisburg around 2013, where they enjoy easy access to the wide and shallow Susquehanna River and feast on the crayfish.
Murphy outlined one theory about why the species ended up in Harrisburg is the protection from natural predators.
"And I think that maybe in these urban settings, raccoons and possums, they're still there, but it's almost like they have enough food around from dumpsters and other places where they're able to locate enough food, that maybe they're not scrambling up these trees trying to find a bird nest," Murphy explained.
Murphy pointed out efforts to improve water quality in the Susquehanna, along with state endangered species protections, have helped keep the night herons safe during mating season.
The migratory birds are normally found in the state capital from April to October.
Jen Hirt, associate professor of English at Penn State Harrisburg and a Harrisburg resident, said she became fascinated with the herons when she first saw them, and now keeps track of when they arrive each year.
Hirt remarked she has noticed other people in the city have also grown fond of them.
"You know, when I think back 10 years ago, people would see these birds and kind of complain a little bit," Hirt recounted. "'Oh, that bird is so messy, it just poops all over my car, it's really loud.' But now, when I talk to people or post something to one of our social media pages, there's almost always a greater understanding of why we should protect these birds and just kind of let them come back every year."
Hirt added her heron count this year is lower than usual, but she hopes it means they're back on the small islands along the Susquehanna, where they were first spotted regionally in the 1990s.
get more stories like this via email
In the wake of historic summer floods in the Midwest and Appalachia, there are calls for a new national plan to reduce risks from disasters. The …
Small businesses that suffered damage or destruction from the recent historic flooding in Eastern Kentucky can get one-on-one assistance as they try t…
The Inflation Reduction Act, newly passed by the U.S. Senate, allocates $369 Billion to fight climate change, and appropriates funds specifically for …
Sweeping legislation approved by Congress is designed to address a range of issues, including climate change and deficit reductions. Other components …
By Linda Burstyn for Ms. Magazine Broadcast version by Roz Brown for New Mexico News Connection/Public News Service Bad Business: Anti-abortion …
Opening up Pennsylvania's primary elections to voters who aren't registered either as Democrats or Republicans is the topic of a State House of Repres…
August is National Black Business Month, and this year, for Black-owned companies in Pennsylvania that have managed to survive through the pandemic…
On August 27, members of the public will have a rare opportunity to visit the historic Padlock Ranch first developed for livestock in 1867, now …