For PA birders looking for some exciting mid-summer birding, the Susquehanna River through Harrisburg offers excellent viewing and photo opportunities for herons and egrets. Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest and forage on islands in the river, along with lower numbers of Green Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons. The real highlight though is the large number of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons that can be found right along Harrisburg’s riverfront!
Large sycamores scattered along the busy streets of uptown Harrisburg host a large, loose colony of Yellow-crowns. This is the largest and most northwestern breeding colony in the state. For such an out-of-the-way hotspot for this species, there is a surprisingly high number here and it’s not unusual to see 20+ in an evening. Three ages can be identified in the area – adults, fresh juveniles, and second year immatures that are in various stages of molting from juvenile to adult plumage. Most of the juveniles are still sticking close to the nests they were hatched in earlier this summer, but in the evenings subadult and adults fly down to the river along Front Street in Harrisburg and forage for crayfish and minnows along the riverbank and scattered, grassy islands.
There’s also a bonus heron species in the Harrisburg area right now, since Ramsay Koury found a juvenile Little Blue Heron at the West Fairview boat launch on July 10th!