YELLOW-CROWNED HIGHTHERONS NESTING IN HOUSTON by Bill McClure
On March 13, I968, for the third consecutive year that I am aware of, the Yellow-
crowned Nightherons returned to the woods behind my house for nesting. Best construction started on March 15. The nests have all been built in a crotch on a lower,
nearly horizontal, limb of Loblolly Pines, about 45 to 50 feet above the ground, about
12 to 15 feet out from the trunk. Hest material is obtained by breaking twigs off
limbs of live pine trees. They never were observed obtaining nest material from the
ground. Hatching occurred on April 20 and 26. The egg shells were discarded at the
nest site, rather than being carried away. One discarded egg contained a chick which
had died in the shell. The young were "house broke" soon after hatching. It is a
mystery how the ugly, awkward chicks can climb to the edge of the nest, turn around
and relieve themselves without falling. The "white-wash" on the ground easily marks
the nest site. The only identifiable food items have been parts of crawfish. By
mid-May the young were often seen standing on the limb outside the nest. By mid-
June they were flying well. By late June they were only at the nest tree for roosting. The night of June 30 was the last that any of the herons roosted in the woods.
This year three pair raised 14 young. Blue Jays were observed harrassing the herons
on several occasions. Most of the activity was vocal but several times a jay was
seen diving at a heron. The heron usually just ducked its head to avoid contact.
In 1967 one egg was found under a nest and it appeared to have been eaten by a bird
whose bill would have been about the size of a jay's beak. This circumstantial
evidence suggests that the Blue Jay may be guilty.
The following has been sent to us by Russ Clapper:
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, DEKALB. ILLINOIS 60115: During May through July,
Ring-billed Galls from three Great Lakes colonies will be wing-marked with 1.5 inch-
diameter "Safeflag" tags. Each colony is represented by a specific color. An attempt
is being made to determine the dispersal pattern, migration route, and winter range
for each population. Anyone observing such wing-marked gulls is asked to notify Dr.
William E. Southern, Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University,
Dekalb, Illinois, 6OII5. The following information is desired: date, exact location,
marker color, and the observer's name. Assistance in this project will be greatly
appreciated. Respondents will be provided with information pertaining to colony locations and the date of marking.
PRAIRIE CHICKENS by Dirk Hagemeyer
An informative article on the Attwater Prairie Chicken by Max H. Jacobs appeared in
the "South Texan," the official publication of the South Texas Chamber of Commerce.
The article gives a complete history on the fight to save the Prairie Chicken. It even
mentions Attwater's speech before the biology section of the Scientific Society of
San Antonio in December, 1916 - quote "There should be a closed season on Prairie
Chickens and Antelope for a number of years to come." Already in those days, 50 years
ago, we had persons concerned with threatened wildlife.
The main part of the article is concerned with the 30 year struggle by Val Lehmann,
the Wildlife Manager of the King Ranch, to establish a Prairie Chicken sanctuary,
Quoting from the article, "Lehmann had devoted nearly 30 years of his life to studying
these prairie birds and fighting to save them. He first counted the chickens in 1937
and found only 8,700 - the pitiful remnant of hundreds of thousands. In 1956 when he
made another survey, there were only 3.500 birds left. Seven years later, in 1963,
another search turned up only 1,335 - a reduction in 25 years of 7,365 birds, or 85
percent - a rate of decline greater than that of the Whooping Crane." The article
then relates in detail the history whieh finally led to the establishment of the Prairie
Chicken Sanctuary near Eagle Lake. And then came hurricane Beulah in September, 1967.
Again I quote "Working closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Cemmission, and with Tom O'Connor, Jr., Dennis O'Connor,
Tom McCann, Patrick H. Welder, David Wintermann, and the late Dan Braman donating the
use of their private helicopters, Lehmann spent the last six months of 1967 cheeking
all former Prairie Chicken rangesin Texas and Louisiana. Among other things, he found
that Hurricane Beulah, in September, I967, had created a sudden crisis. Only about
1,070 birds remained alive."
But there is a ray of hope for their survival. Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Tatton of Corpus
Christi have donated 7,000 acres - adjoining the Aransas Wildlife Refuge - to the
Federal Government. And on the refuge in Colorado County the chickens increased from
25 in 1965 to 58 birds in 1967. Furthermore, 25 chickens from Ellington Field have been