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Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax


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Black-crowned Night-Heron, adult
credit: Dick Daniels/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Ardeidae, Herons, Egrets, Bitterns view all from this family

Description ADULT Has dark, daggerlike bill, black crown and back, gray wings, and pale face and underparts; eyes are large and red, legs are yellowish, and head is adorned with white plumes. JUVENILE Has mainly brown plumage, heavily marked with white spots; bill is dull yellowish. Acquires adult plumage gradually over subsequent 2 years.

Dimensions Length: 23-28" (58-71 cm); Wngspn: 3' 8" (1.1 m)

Habitat Locally fairly common in wetland habitats; usually roosts in waterside trees or bushes. Present year-round in coastal districts, but summer range extends well inland and north.

Observation Tips Most active at dawn and dusk.

Range Plains, Southwest, Eastern Canada, Rocky Mountains, Texas, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, New England, Western Canada, California, Southeast, Florida

Voice Utters a barking quaak call in flight.

Discussion Stocky heron with proportionately large head and hunchbacked appearance at rest. Typically roosts during day and feeds actively only at night; prey includes amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. Nests and roosts communally. Flies on broad, rounded wings, with neck hunched up. Sexes are similar.