Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

And now for something completely different.

Overslept. Last week sunrise was around 7:40. This week it’s an hour earlier. Who is the genius that decided it was okay to mess around with Mother Nature’s timing?

A slice of toast, a bit of Black Forest ham and out the door. Gini and I made it to Colt Creek State Park as the gate was opening. Perfect timing despite the clock manipulators. Fall migration has brought an influx of visitors to the park and it seems they were all talking at once. Palm Warblers littered the ground, Eastern Phoebes adorned snags and tops of weeds, Vireos tried to out sing one another, diminutive Blue-gray Gnatcatchers darted along limbs, a gang of five Gray Catbirds huddled in one small pine tree and Gini found a cluster of three early House Wrens, each scolding us loudly.

In a secluded spot along the park’s namesake, Colt Creek, we spied an immature Black-crowned Night Heron. In typical heron fashion, she stood perfectly still on a log, orange eyes scanning the algae-covered surface for any movement which might indicate breakfast was ready.

Colt Creek State Park


The Black-crowned Night Heron is fairly common throughout North America ranging as far north as Alberta, Canada. They inhabit all sorts of wetlands in fresh as well as salt water. Northern birds migrate south for the winter, either to southern states or to Central and South America. Individuals in warm climates may migrate to the southern region of their area during colder months. These medium size herons are opportunistic feeders and will eat a large variety of prey, such as fish, crabs, insects, birds, eggs, snakes, turtles, etc. They normally grasp their prey instead of stabbing it.

True to their name, most feeding is done at night so they don’t compete with other herons and egrets using the same habitat during the day. They will feed during daylight in breeding season to maintain adequate energy. Their nests are usually constructed of sticks in a tree or among reeds and they frequently nest in colonies. Young birds normally leave the nest within a month of hatching and roam the wetlands at night by foot with other young birds until they can fly at about six weeks old.

Immature birds can be confused with Yellow-crowned Night Herons where their ranges overlap. Young Black-crowned Night Herons will have yellow lower mandibles versus all dark beaks, broader blurred chest streaks and larger white spots on wing coverts.

Shortly after watching young Miss Heron (could have been Mister, sexes are similar), we found a perfectly quiet spot to enjoy some freshly sliced oranges. Eastern Phoebes were reminding us of their name as they constantly called, Black Vultures circled lazily overhead, butterflies floated among the weeds, a Red-shouldered Hawk screamed from his nearby pine tree branch. Confirmed:  Life is good.

Home before lunch time.

A few images from the archives.

An immature bird hunting in the rain.

S-65A Access Road


Stalking prey from the reeds.

Moore Road


Sleeping birds tuck their beaks into their breast feathers.

Lake Parker Power Plant


Masterful hunters, prey is grasped in the beak rather than stabbed.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive


The long plumes on their head can be raised when alarmed or during breeding season.

Circle B Bar Reserve


An adult Black-crowned Night Heron heads to a daytime roost after a night hunting in the marsh.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetlands



Look for these water birds in your area and marvel at their skillful hunting and sleek good looks.


We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

  1. Glad to see the time lords didn’t disrupt your birding. Nice work with the heron pictures. We don’t see nearly enough varieties of herons here in the UK, despite being surrounded by water and the (seemingly) constant rainfall. Night Herons are pretty scarce and a twitcher’s bird if one turns up.
    I hope your weather has settled down now that the windy season has passed. It’s over here now.

    • Good Morning, Phil! We’re into our dry season now and, sure enough, it rained last night. Sigh. At least no strong winds.
      Have a great weekend!

  2. Richard Pegler

    Completely different it might be, Wally, but it’s every bit as enjoyable! A delightful account and photographic record of the species. Following your suggestion, I could look for these in my area until the cows come home (as they say over here), but the chances are I’d never see one. They are almost as rare as hen’s teeth here. I did see one once (in 2013), at a great distance and only about 10 miles from my home, but only because someone else had found it – this was only the 9th record of this species for the county.

    I hope that you and Gini have a wonderful weekend and week ahead – – – Richard

    • You are too kind, Richard, but don’t stop saying nice things! You may not see many night herons there, but you have a delightful array of beauties we cannot see over here. Nature is so diverse!
      Our weekend is in full swing (we’re early birds, you know) and wish you and Lindsay could be having as much fun as we are!

  3. yes liffe is good Wally. Now my favourite shot is the first one. Thank you for all the information. I did not know they hunted at night but then we do not get them here in Northern Ireland. I think the bird you think is sleeping, he in factt is praying that you will take your camera away and give him piece!!! Fabulous fish catch and superb that you captured it on film. Thanks for popping in on my blog and leaving comments. Have a wonderful weekend and regards to Gina. Keep birding.

  4. Jeanne

    Wow. That’s some fish the heron caught. And speaking of catches–you did an amazing job capturing these birds. My experiences with them in Africa is that they are very skittish.

    • Thank you, Jeanne! Here in Florida, the chamber of commerce provides “performance birds” just for tourists. If they ever find out I’m a native, I’ll have to resort to photos of orange groves.
      (Hope your Pied Kingfisher doesn’t see the heron’s fish. Might get jealous.)
      We hope your weekend is full of peace and joy!

  5. Thank you so much for taking us along.
    Feathered enchantment that I will probably never see for myself.

  6. Florice

    that sleeping bird is how I feel first thing in the morning! nice post.

    • There is no truth to the rumor that upon awakening the heron’s call sounds like: “coffeeeeee”.

      Hey, Sister!! Talk to you soon. Love you!

  7. What gorgeous photos! Thank you for sharing!

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