Black and Yellow Crowned Night Herons

Black Crowned Night Heron

The scientific name of the Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) means “night raven” in Latin, reflecting its mostly nocturnal nature and its raven-like loud squawk. Black Crowned Night Herons are small, stocky birds with a black cap and back, the remainder of the body, white. The eyes of this adult heron are bright red. Black Crowned Night Herons have a hunchback appearance when standing still. This heron is a very social bird, often living and breeding in large colonies.

Credit: - Rosemary Gillan

The Black Crowned Night Heron has the widest distribution of any heron, found throughout the globe except for the coldest of climates. Like all herons, the Black Crowned Night Heron is a wading bird, found in both fresh and saltwater. This bird stands still by the water’s edge, and ambushes its prey, which include fish, frogs, crustaceans, birds, and small mammals. This bird normally rests during the day, and feeds at night, often taking the place of “day herons” that have retired to their resting places. The male black crowned night heron builds elaborate nests to attract potential mates; female night herons will often take in orphan herons and raise them with her brood.

Credit: Ron Kaltenbaugh, Jefferson MD

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Another member of Maryland’s resident and transient heron population is the yellow crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea.) This is a bird that is usually a part time resident of the state, migrating to warmer locations during the winter. The yellow crowned night heron has a short, stocky body with a wingspan of about three feet, sporting a yellow-white crown, a slate blue body, and a distinct black patch under its eye.

The yellow crowned night heron is not strictly nocturnal, active in both the daylight and at night. This bird prefers dense, thick, brushy areas like mangrove swamps and marshes. It has a slow, steady flight with its legs dangling behind its body. It is an ambush hunter, hunting mainly for crustaceans like crabs, shrimp, and crayfish. The yellow crowned night heron was heavily hunted for its feathers and meat and nearly became extinct as a result. Populations began to rebound once hunting ceased, and now it’s fairly common throughout its range.

See more Nature notes and images of Black and Yellow crowned night heron on the boards website.

Article by FCFCDB

Page header photo (Yellow crane night heron) credit: - Jim Stasz

Nature note for 9/19/20