According to Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist at the District’s Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township, many people may have seen a night heron before without even realizing it. “Night herons are similar to gulls in terms of size and have the same color underbelly,” he explained. “On the ground, it’s easy to distinguish between the two. But in flight, a night heron can be mistaken for a gull, especially in the evening light.”
Night herons and ring billed gulls have similar wingspans as well (about 4 feet for a night heron, and a few inches longer – around 50 inches – for a gull). However, gulls have a more slender body frame.
In Illinois, the black-crowned night heron remains on the state endangered list. This species was placed on the list in 1977 and remains there because of its past history of decline, its small population numbers and the threat to its habitat.
At Lake Renwick, a total of 273 black-crowned night heron nests were recorded in 1983. Although nesting data has fluctuated over the years since then, this number has yet to be reached or surpassed again in the years that have followed. In 2016, a total of 35 black-crowned night heron nests were recorded at the preserve.
See the black-crowned night heron in person by attending one of the Forest Preserve’s upcoming bird viewing programs.