Colonization and growth of a mixed-species heronry in South Dakota

David E. Naugle, Rex R. Johnson, William A. Meeks, Kenneth F. Higgins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Wetlands in the prairie pothole region of the U.S. can support large heronries which develop during prolonged flooding and wet-dry cycles. An estimated 5,949 breeding ardeid pairs comprised of 95% Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), 2% Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), 2% Great Egrets (Ardea alba), <1% Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula), and <1% Little Blue Herons (E. caerulea) nested in a heronry in the prairie pothole region of South Dakota in 1995. An abundance of aquatic foraging habitat during a wet hydrologic period was a major factor influencing heronry establishment. Nesting species were vertically stratified (X̄ nest height) with largest species nesting highest. The heronry developed from a core area that increased in nest density until saturated, followed by peripheral expansion. Vertical and horizontal nest position may have been a function of timing of nest initiation, nest density, and intraspecific competition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)199-206
    Number of pages8
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1996


    • Ardeidae
    • Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret
    • Foraging habitat
    • Nest stratification
    • Prairie pothole region
    • South Dakota
    • Wetlands


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