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Posts tagged ‘herons’

Sweet One

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

An always lovely and vibrant Tricolored Heron (Louisiana Heron) peeks out from amid the vegetation of our protected wetlands. Here’s to a new year of saving and protecting more space for these sweet and beautiful creatures!

Tricolored Heron, Florida Wetlands

Tricolored Heron

Eyes of the Everglades

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Black-crowned Night Heron surveys his magnificent Everglades empire against an azure sky, from high in the cypress…. May your weekends be as simultaneously brilliant and serene!

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron

They Mostly Come Out at Night… Mostly: The Black-crowned Night Herons

For my fellow sci-fi aficionados, it’s a lot prettier than the critter Newt refers to in the Aliens franchise….

Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are the most widespread herons in the world, and can be found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. As their name suggests, they’re most active during the dusk and night hours, resting during the day.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron in the Wetlands: Learning to Hunt


Compared to other herons, these guys are small, stocky, short-necked, and short-legged — averaging 23-28″ in length and 25″ in height. The adults sport their descriptive black crown and back, accompanied by light blue-grey wings and tail, and whitish underparts. Their legs and feet are yellowish-green, changing to a pinkish-red during the breeding season. During the breeding times, they’ll also grow two or three long white plumes on their heads, that will stand up during greeting and courtship displays. Males and females look alike, but the females are a bit smaller in size. The Black-crowned juveniles display a dark grey-brown plumage, with white streaks and spots. Adult plumage is reached by 3-years-old — which is also breeding time.

But my favorite part of these herons are their eyes: a brilliant bright red. And the youngsters? They have an equally gorgeous yellow stare.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron: Look into my eyessss….

Habitat, Diet & Hunting

Black-crowned Night Herons prefer the fresh- and salt-water wetland habitats, including marine islands, swamps, rivers, canals, marshes, mangroves, and the more overgrown edges of lakes and ponds. They remain close to the water and near their favored trees, including pond apple trees, in our area — where they roost and breed.

Their diet consists primarily of fish, but Black-crowned Night Herons will also partake in frogs, insects, crayfish, mussels, squid, reptiles, rodents, and aquatic plants. They’ll also loot the eggs and nestlings of waterbirds, such as terns, herons and ibises, and hunt small birds. Feeding takes place in the shallow waters, where they grasp their prey (instead of stabbing it). It’s a common sight to witness these herons standing stock-still at the water’s edge for long periods of time, waiting for their prey to come into range. They shake their prey until it’s been stunned or killed, at which point the heron swallows it head-first. Yummy!

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Herons are solitary hunters, and feed in the early morning and at dusk. Theories of their nocturnal habits range from wishing to minimize competition for food with other waders, to avoiding harassment from other birds that are aware of the night herons’ habits of feeding on their eggs and young, and have, therefore, learned to attack night herons on sight.


In the 1960s, Black-crowned Night Herons’ populations suffered a decline that was attributed to the use of DDT. They’re also hunted for food — particularly the juveniles. Additionally these herons are killed at fish farms, where they’re seen as a nuisance. Fortunately, alternate methods for managing many of the associated “issues” with these birds have been implemented, eradicating the need to slaughter these lovely herons.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Hunting in the Wetlands

As with other wading birds, habitat loss and destruction (in addition to water pollution) of their wetland habitats in more recent history have had detrimental impacts in their decreased populations.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Near the Roost

SAVE THE WETLANDS and their most lovely and amazing inhabitants!

Fun Facts:

  • If you want to hear a Black-crowned Night heron, listen for a loud and somewhat harsh ‘Qua,’ ‘Quak,’ ‘Quark’, ‘kwark’ or ‘kwok.’
  • In many parts of the world, this heron is named for its calls. In the Falkland Islands, it’s referred to as quark; kwak in Dutch and Frisian; and similarly in Czech, Ukrainian, Russian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and other languages.
  • Black-crowned Night Herons can live up to 30 years in captivity, and 20 years in the wild.
  • While hunting, these herons use a technique called “bill vibrating.” They open and close their bill rapidly in the water, which creates a disturbance that lures prey.

Part of:

The Eyes Have It

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. ―Martin Buber

In preparation of an upcoming post on Black-crowned Night Herons, and in honor of Halloween, I give you the lovely and brilliant red and orange glowing pumpkin stares of these lovely wetland waders. I’m always captivated by birds’ eyes, but some are especially striking….

An adult’s red glowing gaze

A juvenile’s changing orange sight


A Young Great Blue’s Meal

I had been watching one of the Great Blue Herons at our local wetland preserves a few weeks ago; she only had one baby, which is a bit unusual for the species. I watched as she built her nest high in the cypress trees, then dutifully guarded it, alone…. There was no male in sight, which is likewise unusual. Usually both the male and female remain at the nest, and hunt for the young. There aren’t as many human visitors at these particular wetlands, due to the lack of active rookeries — which suits me just fine; the baby alligators, birds, butterflies, marsh rabbits (or swamp bunnies as I’m fond to call them), and if I’m lucky, bobcats, keep me company.

I always spied this Great Blue hunting in the same area — a swath of dry land near a small swamp frequented by the bobcats. Visitors would stroll right by her, she blended so perfectly with the landscape. This choice of hunting grounds would explain her meal below — Yummers! It’s no surprise that these birds have been known to choke to death while trying to swallow meals that are too large for them.

What has she been trying to regurgitate…?

Well, oh my.

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