Jan 21 2010
If you’ve been following my Beyond Bounds series you’ll have noticed that most of the birds I highlight are long-legged wading birds. Today’s blog is no exception.
Yellow-crowned night-herons are found year-round in Florida and along the Caribbean coast all the way to Brazil. They breed as far north as coastal Connecticut and in southern Indiana and Illinois but they rarely wander to southwestern Pennsylvania. That’s because they eat crabs, crayfish and aquatic insects in marshes and wooded swamps. Again the Pittsburgh area strikes out on habitat.
This heron is well named. The crown of his head is yellow and he’s very nocturnal. His blue-gray plumage earned him the Latin name Nyctanassa violacea and he has red eyes, perhaps an adaptation for nighttime vision.
Despite his predilection for darkness, the first time I saw a yellow-crowned night-heron was in broad daylight at Nummy Island, NJ. It was mid-May and the herons and egrets were busy nesting. True to their nocturnal habits, most of the night-herons were roosting in thick woody shrubs but one of them was dragging around with bleary eyes carrying sticks to her nest. I guess she was running out of time and had to “pull an all-nighter.”
If you want to see yellow-crowned night-herons in Pennsylvania your best bet is during late spring or early summer in the lower Susquehanna and Delaware valleys. Even then they’re rare. You usually have to travel beyond our bounds.
Steve Gosser photographed this one in Florida.
(photo by Steve Gosser)