Unusual Visitor at Harrison Hills Park

7 July 2024

Yesterday morning Mike Fialkovich found a juvenile yellow-crowned night heron at Harrison Hills County Park. The bird was easy to find in a shallow creek by the Creekside Trail head at Overlook parking lot. By the end of the day 11 eBirders had stopped by to see this unusual visitor. Here’s the bird at dusk.

Yellow-crowned night herons (Nyctanassa violacea) specialize in eating crabs and crayfish, especially at night. They are usually found in salt marshes, forested wetlands, swamps and on coastal islands but they’re not worried about people and will show up on lawns in Florida.

As you can see from their range map, their stronghold is in Central and South America where they live year round. From there this southern visitor is expanding north.

Yellow-crowned night heron range map embedded from All About Birds

Adults explore out of range in the spring.

Yellow-crowned night heron, Cuba (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Juveniles wander widely, especially in August and September. It seems too early for a youngster to wander up the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys as far as Harrison Hills but yellow-crowned night herons retain juvenile plumage for three years so this bird might not be as young as we think.

And he’s not the first unusual visitor. This yellow-crowned visited in Duquesne in August 2019 and stayed for a week. Maybe this year’s bird will stick around for a while.

Yellow-crowned night heron in Duquesne, PA, 18 Aug 2019 (photo by Amy Henrici)

One thought on “Unusual Visitor at Harrison Hills Park

  1. This is species No. 191 on the Harrison Hills Park list in northeastern Allegheny County since the park opened in 1970. It’s an amazing birding hotspot.

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