STATUS: Breeder. Fairly common in spring, summer, and fall in Gulf Coast region, but rare in winter. Uncommon in spring, summer, and fall in other regions, but occasional in winter. Low Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: The yellow-crowned night heron (Nycticorax violaceus) averages about 25 ounces in weight and is about 22-28 inches long. 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. Their call sounds like a loud squawk.
DISTRIBUTION: Wintering areas include the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. They breed from New England south to Florida and west to Texas.
HABITAT: Preferred habitats are wooded wetlands, fresh and saltwater marshes, and shrub thickets.
FEEDING HABITS: The yellow-crowned night heron’s diet consists mainly of crabs and crayfish. They will also eat fish, eels, mussels, frogs, tadpoles, insects, snails, and small snakes. They forage primarily during dawn and dusk using the still-hunting method, but they will also stir up prey with their legs and stab food items with their bill.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Breeding occurs from February to June. Their breeding ritual consists of territorial displays and a greeting ceremony. Females lay from three to five pale blue-green eggs on a nest of sticks in trees or on the ground. Males and females share in the incubation process that lasts about three weeks. Nestlings are taken care of by both parents. They are solitary birds, but are sometimes found nesting with other heron species in colonies.
Bent, A. C. 1921. Life Histories of North American Marsh Birds. U.S.Natl.Mus.No.135 PP.213-210.
AUTHOR: Frank Allen, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries