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Queens Chronicle

Yellow-crowned night heron nesting in Lindenwood

A family of herons has made a home on an 84th Street building

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Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:53 am, Thu Aug 1, 2013.

There’s a new family that has taken up residence in Lindenwood.

They’re from the south, enjoy seafood and live on the fourth floor of Heritage House South — one of the neighborhood’s high-rise condominiums.

But you won’t see this family loading up a minivan at Waldbaum’s or playing in PS 232’s playground. If you want to meet Lindenwood’s newest family, just look up.

A flock of yellow-crowned night herons have made a home in the community.

The parent birds, which are also known as American night herons or squawks, built a nest in the fire escape on the fourth floor of Heritage House South at 151-35 84 St., directly across the street from the Lindenwood Shopping Center. There, the herons laid between three and six eggs, but the true total is not known because some of the eggs or hatchlings may have died.

Tim Ruggio, a resident of the apartment building, said the birds first tried to build the nest in another part of the building before deciding on the fire escape early in the spring.

The nest was fine until a few weeks ago when it fell from the fire escape crashing into a bush in a side yard of the building right near the corner of 153rd Avenue and 84th Street. Most of the nest remained intact in the bush. Ruggio said he did not know why the nest fell.

The young herons, unable to fly, survived the fall and wandered around the yard and Ruggio said he was told by one of the building’s porters that a chick found its way into the street, where it was killed by a passing car on 84th Street.

Fearing for the young birds’ lives, residents called the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, who in turn contacted the American Littoral Society and its Northeast Chapter president, Don Riepe, a resident of Broad Channel who is familiar with the birds.

“The herons are native to the south, but they’re starting to have a foothold around here,” he said. “There are around 50 nests in a housing project in Far Rockaway.”

The herons are more common in the southern states, from South Carolina to Florida, and in parts of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The Lindenwood nest is the first time the birds have appeared on the “mainland.”

Lisa Scheppke, a member of the American Littoral Society, went to Lindenwood and moved the heron chicks into a large tree near where the nest was, where they will remain until they are able to fly.

The herons are rather large birds and the chicks themselves are about the size of a rooster.

“They’ll be alright up in the trees,” Riepe said. “The parent birds will bring them food.”

Riepe said the herons favor constructing nests on tall buildings because the structures protect them from the elements and from animals that prey on their eggs and chicks, such as raccoons. The herons favor spots close to the marshland because that is where they find their food source. Herons eat crustaceans, small fish, aquatic insects and mollusks. Riepe said the birds probably get their food from the tidal marsh around Spring Creek on the western end of Lindenwood.

“A favorite food of theirs is the fiddler crab,” he said. “They must have found a good source of food.”

Ruggio said the birds have become an attraction for building residents and for others in the community. On Saturday afternoon, a mother and her two children stopped by to see if they could see the birds.

“I heard they were here and wanted to see if I could see them,” she said. “I’ve never seen a heron before.”

Ruggio said he often watches the parents fly around from his apartment.

“The father bird has these big white feathers on top of his head,” he said. “I sit on the balcony sometimes and see him fly by. They’re pretty incredible.”

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