Wendy Wright

Creature Feature: Yellow-crowned Night-Herons by Michael Graves

They came back and are doing well!!! The Yellow-crowned Night-Herons that is. The Live Oak trees on Bayland hosted a large number of nests this year, with the birds having built only a few nests along the avenue during the past few years – probably as a result of the aggressive tree trimming performed by a city contractor in 2015 while the trees were filled with nestlings. This year, each block of Bayland that provides a full canopy averaged two nests, with an average of two to three chicks from each nest in the process of leaving the nests – or “fledging.”

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll see the fledglings walking around (please drive mindfully) and making short flights around the neighborhood as they build up their strength. Soon, they’ll be easy to spot along the banks of the White Oak Bayou, feeding on a wide assortment of crayfish and other crustaceans, fish, frogs, toads, insects and even the occasional snake. If you look carefully, you’ll also be able to spot Yellow-crowns roosting in trees in White Oak Park and Woodland Park. In the fall, most will leave the area, heading to wintering grounds along the coasts of Mexico and Central America.

Yellow-crowns take on many looks, with the full adult plumage not achieved until the third year. Young birds are mostly brown with white markings. Gradually, they’ll morph over to a slate gray color scheme, with the flashy black-and-white facial markings of the adults added last. A series of photos taken in the neighborhood and along the bayou illustrates the transformation from quasi-dinosaur to svelte adult to ancient mystic.

If you’d like to know more about the birds you can find in the Woodland Heights and along the bayou, check out the Bayou City Birding Zines and Posters that can be downloaded from the website of the White Oak Bayou Association at WhiteOakBayou.org/resources-and-zines. The first of these zines features the Yellow-crowns and five other herons and egrets that can usually be spotted along the bayou.

- Wendy Wright