This week’s featured Wader is the Black-crowned Night-Heron. (You can check out last week’s featured Wader, the Roseate Spoonbill, here.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
- Medium-sized, stocky heron
- Large head, rarely extends neck
- Whitish to pale gray belly
- Gray wings
- Black cap/back/bill
- Red eyes
- Short yellow legs
- Long white plumes from head during breeding seasons
- South American subspecies Dusky in plumage
- Brown overall and heavily streaked
- Thick neck and yellow and black bill
- Large white spots on wing coverts
- Immature/1st Summer a mix of Juvenile and Adult features
- Year-Round: Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, parts of Pacific Coast, Florida
- Summer: Most of the United States, parts of Canada
- Winter: Mexico
Marshes, wetlands, swamps, wooded streams, lakes
Amphibians, fish, small mammals, insects, crustaceans. Black-crowned Night-Herons forage most actively at night and early morning. They will stand in one spot and wait for prey before striking. Night-Herons will also slowly forage along the shoreline or from a perch. These birds have been known to steal chicks from the nests of other herons.
- Courtship: Black-crowned Night-Herons start breeding around the age of 2. Males will choose a nest site to display from. To attract females, the male will raise his neck and ruffle his feathers. He may also bow while alternating lifting his feet.
- Nesting Site: Night-Herons are colonial nesters who roost in trees. The female will build a nest of sticks with some assistance from the male.
- Young: Both parents will incubate 3-5 greenish-blue eggs for 21-26 days. The young are fed by regurgitation. They begin to fly around 6 weeks of age, and will start to follow the parents for food shortly after flight.
A loud kwok!, mainly heard at night. In the breeding colony, a variety of barks and croaks
Although quite inconspicuous, due to their nocturnal nature, Black-crowned Night-Herons are fairly common. They are a good indicator species for the quality of the environment in which they live since they feed at the top of the food chain.
- Black-crowned Night-Herons are the most widespread heron in the world. They are found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica.
- Young Night-Herons don’t reach adult plumage until around the age of 3.
- They are one of the seven heron species known to use bait-fishing. They will toss an object in the water to attract prey within their striking range.
- The Black-crowned Night-Heron’s scientific name Nycticorax nycticorax means “night raven”.