Citizen Science
Harbor Heron Surveys
This project is a collaborative effort of New Jersey Audubon (NJA) and New York City Audubon, to look at movements of birds between breeding and foraging sites and to determine the importance of different foraging areas.

Results of this survey will fill gaps in knowledge identified by the New Jersey Wildlife Action Plan for coastal areas in the Hackensack Meadowlands and the Raritan Bay conservation zones of the Piedmont Plains.  In addition, it will provide information needed for the Harbor Heron Conservation Plan, which in turn will help ensure persistence of these charismatic birds. 

In addition to the important ecological information on the status of a natural resource to allow for appropriate management decisions, this project will raise awareness and engage the public in understanding and more actively conserving wildlife.




2013 Harbor Heron Surveys

We continue our study of site and habitat use by egrets during and post-breeding In the NY/NJ Harbor. Our volunteers are out conducting their surveys!

This year we will continue to look for post-breeding roosts and monitor the roosts that we found during the 2012 roost blitz. If you know of any late season roosts (large concentrations of egrets away from the breeding colony) please let us know!


We are also launching a smart phone app to report egret sightings! This app using the Mappler platform was created by Rutgers University students Eden Buenaventura, Carolyn Paul, Brandon Rogers, and Emilia Topp, and tested with data from NJA's Harbor Heron Project from previous years as part of the Advanced Geomatics course at Rutgers Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (Rick Lathrop). 

More info 

Mappler App Tutorial 

Access the Mappler Data Maps (Dynamic Survey Map) online

2012 Harbor Heron Surveys

During 2012 we focused on site and habitat use by egrets later in the season (July 15 - Sept 30) to explore post-breeding movements 

Roost-Finding Blitz 2012 - In fall 2012, we also conducted a 'blitz' (Sept 14 - Sept 23) to find post-breeding egret roosts.  This included a citizen science component and a complementary aerial survey conducted by NJ Audubon and NYC Audubon staff on September 17th, 2012. 

Read more about egret roosts and the project results here.   

See maps of confirmed roosts and the results of the aerial survey.

***2012 Roost Results! Click here for a presentation given at the Greater New York/New Jersey Harbor Herons and Waterbirds Working Group Annual Meeting (January 2013)*** 



2008-2011 Heron Surveys

Because their nesting sites are conspicuous with hundreds of nests, more is known about their breeding behavior than is known about their foraging habitats and activities.  Since 1985, nine wading bird species have bred on island colonies in the NY/NJ Harbor: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Tri-colored Heron. All of these species are NJ species of greatest conservation concern (SGCN), and the two night-herons are NJ listed as state threatened. These birds currently breed on several islands in the harbor, including Hoffman Island, Canarsie Pol, and South and North Brother Islands.

Flight line observations of the birds as they leave the breeding colonies reveal that the herons use New Jersey wetlands extensively to forage.  For example, birds from North and South Brother Islands fly over Manhattan and the Hudson River to forage in the tidal mudflats of New Jersey's Meadowlands, while birds from Hoffman have been observed crossing Staten Islands to forage in Arthur Kill and the Raritan River basin (NYCA unpublished data). 




Specific objectives:

  1. to determine the abundance and distribution of long-legged colonial waterbirds at various sites and habitats in the NJ Meadowlands and at Raritan Bay and to identify areas used as foraging grounds
  1. to mobilize and coordinate citizen scientists to conduct observations of colonial waterbirds, thereby engaging them in nature study and creating stewards of the birds and habitat of the NJ Meadowlands.


Photo by:  Steve Mattan

2009 Report

Our 2009 report can be accessed online at:



2008 Sightings!

A Glossy Ibis chicks banded on Hoffman Island during the 2008 breeding season was seen in Lancaster, PA from 8/08-8/15.  It was by itself and hung out for a few days, mostly feeding among the mudflats.  See attached for pictures of the little guy, one from the day we banded him on July 1st and the other from when he was spotted in PA.

Tide information

From the Amtrak railroad bridge:

Harrier Meadow-- Should be nontidal for all points but 06W, which should have a 2 hr delay (that point is actually looking into Sawmill Creek).

Sawmill Creek-- Should have a 2hr delay because it is west of the river. 

Kingsland-- Should have a 2hr delay because it is west of the river.

Sawmill WMA (SWMA)-- This is west of the river so it should have a 2hr delay.

Kearny Brackish Marsh-- This is west of the river so it should have a 2hr delay.

Mill Creek Marsh and Secaucus HS-- These sites are east of the river, so should not have a delay. 


For more information contact: Nellie Tsipoura