Happy New Year to all, and welcome back! Over the past several weeks, we’ve taken a look at a variety of Herons, and this week it is time to close the chapter on herons with two of my favorites – the Night Herons.
Night herons come in two varieties, the Black-Crowned Night Heron and the Yellow Crowned Night Heron. As their name would imply, both are primarily nocturnal feeders, although it is not uncommon to find them out and about in the daytime as well.
We’ll start with the Black-Crowned Night Heron. Small and stocky, these are some of the smallest herons, with a full-grown length of only 24-25” (64 cm). Found throughout much of the US and into parts of Canada, these birds are locally common but, due to their nocturnal habits and their tendency to prefer wet swamps and woods, may be less likely to be seen or noticed by the casual observer.
Note the rather thick bill, and the dark, almost black, crown and back. The wispy white plume, found in mature birds, is longest and most dramatic in the breeding season (early spring through summer).
The juvenile is brown with white speckles and light under parts, and can be told from the young Yellow-Crowned by its lighter colors and paler yellow, thinner bill. The youngster below seems to have barely escaped becoming lunch for a gator:
The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is also a small, slight bird, about the same size as the Black-Crowned, but not as stocky. Note the overall gray body, with the pale yellow crown and cheeks, and the otherwise black head. The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is also locally common, and can be seen regularly along estuaries and bays as well as deeper in the inland swamps.
As with the juvenile Black-Crowned, the juvenile Yellow-Crowned is brown with white specks. Note the much thicker, darker bill, and the generally darker underside.
The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is a persistent hunter, and patience pays off when you find one on the prowl. I’ll end with a sequence of photos of a Yellow-Crowned doing what he does best: