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From the Field: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons (Nyctanassa violacea) is a short, stocky wading bird about 24 inches. Their wingspan is a little less than four feet. It has long yellow to orange legs and a gray body. They have a black head, black bill, red eyes, white cheek patch, and a yellowish-white crown. Males and females look alike.  Breeding occurs from February to June. Their breeding ritual consists of territorial displays and a greeting ceremomy. Nest in small scattered colonies underneath the canopy of wooded and forested areas. Males and females share in the incubation process that lasts about three weeks. They are solitary birds, but are sometimes found nesting with other heron species in colonies. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are small, semi-nocturnal wading birds that inhabit freshwater and coastal regions throughout North and South America, specifically the southeastern United States, Central America, and northern South America. There are several reports of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons being killed for food by the Creoles of southern Louisiana and the inhabitants of the Bahamas. Today the species is occasionally hunted as a game bird. However, none of this hunting has caused a severe threat to its population.

References: Audubon, J. 1937. The Birds of America. New York: The Macmillian Company. Bent, A. 1963. Life Histories of North American Marsh Birds. New York: Dover Publications. Bull, J., J. Farrand. 1994. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. New York: Chanticleer Press. Watts, B. D. 1995. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). In The Birds of North America, No., 161 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. Watts, B. 2011. "Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea)" (On-line). The Birds of North America Online. Accessed October 23, 2013 at 

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