Black-crowned Night-HeronNycticorax nycticorax (Linnaeus)
Status Uncommon visitant, rare in summer. Breeds. Although it was evidently occasional earlier in the nineteenth century (Jones 1885), the first concrete specimen records are given by Piers (1892a). To 1960 there were only about 25 records, but since then it has become almost annual in increasing numbers. Among those that appeared to be merely visitors, 10 were first noted in April, 37 in May, 18 in June, 15 in July, 36 in August, 7 in September and 7 in October. The earliest spring report in recent years was from Brier Island on 6 April 1961, but an earlier one was shot in Yarmouth County on 26 March 1928. The latest was on Sable Island on 20 October 1984. On 1 June 1977 three active nests were discovered in a Great Blue Heron colony on Bon Portage Island (Quinney and Smith 1980). A fledged young was noted at a later date. By 1984 there were approximately 15 night heron nests in this colony. An incompletely feathered juvenile with two adults seen on Seal Island in July 1984 and other sightings of young summer birds in western Nova Scotia suggest that it will be found more widely.
Description Length: 60-70 cm. Adults: Forehead white, crown and back black with a greenish or bluish gloss. Two, three or four long narrow white plumes on hindneck. Sides of head, neck and underparts white with grayish wash; rest of plumage gray. Bill black, legs and feet yellow, eyes ruby-red. Immatures: Very different. Upperparts mainly light brown, spotted and streaked with white. Underparts whitish, streaked with grayish brown. Outer flight feathers usually lightly tinged with rust. Tarsus about equal to middle toe and claw.
Breeding Nest: Made of coarse twigs and branches, with finer lining. Usually in trees, up to 40 m high. Nests on Bon Portage Island in spruces, virtually the only trees available. Eggs: 3-5; pale blue-green.
Range Breeds from central Washington, southern Manitoba and New Brunswick south to Paraguay; winters as far north as southern New England. Also occurs in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Remarks Night herons lack the characteristic long necks and legs so conspicuous in other herons. In flight their necks are not S-folded like the others but appear short and drawn in, somewhat crow-like. At rest they present a rather short, stocky appearance.
As its name suggests, the night heron feeds largely at night, spending the daylight hours with others of its kind in dense cover. However, occasionally it will be found on its marshy feeding grounds in broad daylight.
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