Black-crowned Night Heron

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Common Name: Black-crowned Night Heron
Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax

Size: 22-26 inches (55-66 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide. Found in various wetland habitats, including salt, brackish, and freshwater marshes, swamps, streams, lakes, and agricultural fields.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 510,000 - 3,600,000. Because of wide distribution and feeding habits, the Black-crowned Night-Heron is an excellent indicator of ecosystem health.

While populous and widespread, there are threats nonetheless to this species in some areas. This species is threatened by wetland drainage and destruction and by drought in wintering areas. It is highly susceptible to pesticides such as organophosphates, carbamate and DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) which negatively affect hatching success. There are also cases of genetic damage to chicks as a result of petroleum contamination. The species is susceptible to avian influenza and Newcastle disease so may be threatened by future outbreaks. It is also persecuted (anti-predation killing) at aquaculture facilities due to its depredation on fish stocks, and has suffered declines due to the exploitation of chicks from nesting colonies in the past. Chicks of the species are still taken for food in some areas (e.g. Madagascar) and adults are hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria.

Diet: Fish, small invertebrates, crustaceans, vertebrates, mammals, eggs and young of other birds, and plants. It forages early morning and in the early evening. Usually a solitary forager, it strongly defends its feeding territory.

Nesting: Night Herons are monogamous and breed in colonies. One to seven pale blue or green eggs are laid in a flimsy platform lined with roots and grass, built near the trunk of a tree or in branches. Black-crowned Night-Heron may nest in the same tree with ibises or other herons. Incubation ranges from 21 to 26 days and is carried out by both parents.

Cool Facts: The Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most widespread heron in the world. This heron is known also ‘Bihoreau à couronne noire’ in French and ‘Yaboa real’, ‘Guanaba’ and ‘ Guaco’ in Spanish.

A case of stage fright? Young Black-crowned Night-Herons often disgorge their stomach contents when disturbed. This habit makes it easy for scientists to study their diet.

Adult Black-crowned Night-Herons apparently do not distinguish between their own young and those from other nests, and may brood chicks not their own.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume II: Herons and Bitterns

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