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Nycticorax nycticorax

(Black-crowned Night Heron)


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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Afrikaans:

Gewone Nagreier

Common Names in Dutch:


Common Names in English:

Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, American night heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron., Blackcrowned Night Heron, Night Heron, Qua Bird, qua-bird, Quawk, quok, squawk

Common Names in Finnish:


Common Names in French:

H?ron bihoreau, bihoreau gris, Héron bihoreau

Common Names in German:


Common Names in Hebrew:

אנפת לילה

Common Names in Italian:


Common Names in Japanese:


Common Names in Russian:

Kvakva, Кваква, Кваква обыкновенная

Common Names in Spanish:

Martinete, Martinete Común, Pedrete corona negra

Common Names in Swedish:



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Physical Description

Adult : Head : Cap: black Crown: glossy black. Breeding adults have 2-3 long white plumes on the back of the crown Ear Tufts: red Face : Eyebrow Line : white Eye Color: red Facial Skin : yellow-green Bill: dark, mostly black Neck: Nape: black Sides: gray Body: Back: glossy black Underparts: creamy Upperparts: white Legs : Foot Color: yellow Leg Color: yellow Tail: gray Undertail Coverts: pale gray Uppertail Coverts: pale gray.Breeding: Head: Cap: black Crown: glossy black. Breeding adults have 2-3 long white occipital plumes on the back of the crown Ear Tufts: red Face: Eyebrow Line: white Eye Color: red Facial Skin: brighter yellow-green than non-breeding. Bill: dark, mostly black Neck: Nape: black Sides: gray Body: Back: glossy black Upperparts: white Legs: Foot Color: brighter yellow than non-breeding. Leg Color: yellow Tail: gray Undertail Coverts: pale gray Uppertail Coverts: pale gray.Immature: Face: Eye Color: yellow Facial Skin: brighter yellow-green than non-breeding. Bill: dark, mostly black.


Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 3,422 meters (0 to 11,227 feet).[1]

Ecology: Behavior Northern populations of this species are migratory, with those breeding in the western Palearctic travelling on a broad front across the Sahara1 and those breeding in North American travelling on a narrow front along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts2. Post-breeding southward movements occur from September to October and return northward movements occur from March to May2. Tropical populations are not migratory but may undergo seasonal post-breeding dispersive movements1. In temperate regions breeding occurs in the local spring , with tropical and subtropical nesting generally coinciding with the rains2. The species usually nests in small numbers7 in single- or mixed-species colonies1, although sometimes groups may reach several thousand pairs1. When nesting within mixed-species colonies the species tends to form monospecific clusters2. The species's aggregatory behaviour outside of the breeding season varies much throughout its range , some populations (e.g. in America) remaining highly gregarious throughout the year7 and gathering in flocks of hundreds or even thousands to roost1, others (e.g. Palearctic breeders) being largely solitary except when roosting or on migration7 (roosting flocks of 2-6 to 200 are known in Africa5 and small flocks occur on migration)1. The species is largely crepuscular and nocturnal , but may feed diurnally especially during the breeding season1. Habitat The species inhabits fresh, brackish or saline waters with aquatic vegetation and bamboo or trees (e.g. pine, oak or mangroves ) for roosting and nesting in1, showing a preference for islands or predator-free areas for nesting sites2. It occupies the forested margins of shallow rivers , streams , lagoons , pools , ponds , lakes , marshes and mangroves and may feed on pastures, reservoirs , canals, aquaculture ponds1 and rice-fields (up to 96 % of a colony's food resources may be taken from nearby rice-fields)2. On migration the species may also frequent dry grasslands or marine coasts1, kelp beds2 and estuaries6. It breeds up to 4,800 m (Chile)2 but is more common at elevations of up to c.2,000 m7. Diet It is an opportunistic feeder taking fish, frogs , tadpoles , turtles, snakes , lizards, adult and larval insects1 (e.g. beetles, bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and dragonflies)2, spiders, crustaceans, molluscs , leeches, small rodents, bats and the eggs and chicks of other bird species1. Breeding site The nest is platform constructed of sticks and vegetation1, 2 placed 2-50 m above water or on dry ground near water7 in trees, bushes, reedbeds, on cliff ledges1 (overhanging rivers)6 and on the ground1 in protected sites2. The species nests close together in single- and mixed-species colonies1 with as many as 20-30 pairs in the same tree2. Colony sites may be reused in consecutive years or flocks may move to new sites (usually such movements are a result of nesting trees being destroyed due to the colony's nesting activities)2. Colony sites are dispersed throughout the landscape in relation to distance from feeding areas2. Management information A study carried out in north-west Italy suggests that existing nesting sites should be protected and that breeding habitats should be actively managed in order to maintain suitable habitat characteristics13. The creation of a network of new nesting sites spaced at 4-10 km in relation to available foraging habitats in zones currently without suitable nesting sites is also recommended13.


List of Habitats:

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Mostly fish, with some aquatic invertebrates , reptiles , amphibians , and small mammals.


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Nycticorax nycticorax (Linnaeus, 1758)

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Nycticorax

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 18 species and subspecies in this genus:

N. caledonicus (Nankeen Night Heron) · N. caledonicus caledonicus (Nankeen Night Heron) · N. caledonicus crassirostris (Bonin Nankeen Night Heron) · N. duboisi (Reunion Night-Heron) · N. goisagi (Long-Billed Murrelet) · N. leuconotus (White-Backed Night-Heron) · N. magnificus (White-Eared Night Heron) · N. mauritianus (Mauritius Night-Heron) · N. megacephalus (Niceforo Brown Pintail) · N. melanolophus (Malayan Night Heron) · N. nycticorax (Black-Crowned Night-Heron) · N. nycticorax falklandicus (Black-Crowned Night-Heron (Falklands)) · N. nycticorax hoactli (Black-Crowned Night-Heron (American)) · N. nycticorax nycticorax (Black-Crowned Night-Heron (Eurasian)) · N. nycticorax obscurus (Black-Crowned Night-Heron (Dusky)) · N. nycticorax violaceus (Yellow-Crowned Night Heron) · N. violaceus (Yellow-Crowned Night Heron) · N. violaceus violaceus (Yellow-Crowned Night Heron)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal December 06, 2007:



  1. Mean = 127.110 meters (417.028 feet), Standard Deviation = 625.070 based on 4,158 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
  2. BirdLife International 2009. Nycticorax nycticorax. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 02 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-07-15