Wildlife Journal Junior!
New Hampshire PBS

Home       |       Wild Files       |       N.H. Animals       |       Animals A-Z       |       Watch Online

Black-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax

Black-crowned Night Heron


 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes 
 Family: Ardeidae
 Genus: Nycticorax
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least Concern Least Concern


Black-crowned Night HeronThe black-crowned night heron is 23-28 inches tall. It has a wingspan of almost four feet. It is a medium-sized heron with a stocky body and short legs and a short neck. It has a black crown and back, gray wings, and a white underside.

Black-crowned Night HeronAdults have red eyes and yellow legs and feet. In breeding season, adults have two long white plumes on their heads. Females and males look alike, but females are a little smaller. Immature night herons have a gray-brown head, chest, and belly streaked with white. Their eyes are yellow, and they have gray legs. Black-crowned night herons don't have adult plumage until they are about three years old.


mapThe black-crowned night heron breeds from Washington; Saskatchewan, Canada; Minnesota; and New Brunswick, Canada south to southern South America. It is not found in the Rocky Mountain region. It winters in the southern United States. Migration happens in large flocks and almost always at night.



The black-crowned night heron lives in fresh and saltwater marshes, swamps, lakes and wooded streams.


Black-Crowned  Night HeronThe black-crowned night heron hunts for food in the early morning hours and at dusk. It stands and waits for prey like frogs and fish to pass by and then snatches them up with its bill. It sometimes raids the nests of other herons and birds and steals the chicks. It also eats amphibians, crustaceans, insects and small mammals.

Life Cycle

The female black-crowned night heron lays three to five eggs in a nest in reeds, in a thicket, or occasionally, in a tree. The nest is made of sticks and twigs. The chicks hatch in 24-26 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks regurgitated food. Black-crowned night herons nest in colonies and often nest with other bird like ibises and other herons. The chicks fledge in 42-49 days.


Male night herons use their nests to attract a mate. The same nest may be used for many years.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Miguel Angel Roda cc logo