Black-crowned Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

Picture of a black-crowned night heron perched on a brick wall
Image by Manoj Karingamadathil on Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Physical: Black-crowned night herons are stocky birds that often tuck their necks into their body, making them look hunchbacked. Adults have red eyes, a white belly, grey wings, and a black cap and back. Juveniles are brown with white streaks and a pale yellow bill.

Habitat: Black-crowned night herons live in marshes and along shores, in fresh and saltwater. They nest on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Their range spans every state in the continental US, and while some migrate, black-crowned night herons stay in the Barnegat Bay year-round. They roost in trees, thickets, on islands, and over water.

Feeding: Like their name suggests, black-crowned night herons feed in the evening and night. They perch at the water’s edge, or walk slowly searching for prey. They feed on fish, squid, crustaceans (shrimp), frogs, snakes, clams, mussels, rodents, and carrion.

Breeding: Black-crowned night herons begin breeding at 2 years of age. They breed in colonies, sometimes alongside other herons, egrets, or ibises. Males do a mating display at their chosen nesting site in the trees, stretching their necks, bowing, and making a hissing noise. Once paired up, the herons build the nest together. On average, breeding pairs lay 3-4 pale green eggs which they incubate together for 21-26 days.

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