Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron Copyright © 2014 Will Chen.

A Yellow-crowned night heron enjoying some shade under the canopy of the mangroves.  I made this photo during a lunch excursion trip to Safety Harbor, Florida (2014).

The Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea, formerly placed in the genus Nycticorax), also called the American Night Heron or squawk, is a fairly small heron. It is found throughout a large part of the Americas, especially (but not exclusively) in warmer coastal regions; an example occurrence is the Petenes mangroves of the Yucatan.

A related heron, the Bermuda Night Heron, was endemic to Bermuda, but became extinct following human colonisation.

Adults are about 61 cm (24 in) long and weigh 625 g (22.0 oz). They have a white crown and back with the remainder of the body grayish, red eyes and short yellow legs. They have a white stripe below the eye. Juveniles resemble young Black-crowned Night-Herons, being mainly brown flecked with white or gray.

In warmer locations, some are permanent residents; others migrate to Central America and the West Indies. They may occasionally wander north to the lower Great Lakes or Ontario after the breeding season.

These birds stalk their prey or wait in ambush at the water’s edge, mainly at night. They mainly eat crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, aquatic insects, and small fish.

Their breeding habitat is swamps and marshes from the eastern United States to north-eastern South America. They often nest in colonies, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. They lay 3–5 pale blue-green eggs.

Referred to as Gros bec (from the French meaning thick-billed), or commonly referred to as Night Heron, the birds were eaten as a form of game in Cajun cuisine. Poachers sometimes raided nests for the breast meat of young birds, a practice that could destroy an entire rookery. Ibis (bec croche) was also eaten. Killing these wild birds is now illegal.