Black-crowned Night-Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax




Bitterns, Herons and Egrets (Ardeidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale green or light blue.

Number of Eggs:

1 - 7

Incubation Days:

21 - 26

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On or above ground, as high as 150 feet above ground.

Nest Material:

Sticks, twigs, and reeds.





Black-crowned Night-Heron: Medium-sized stocky heron with short neck and legs, black upperparts, gray wings and white to pale gray underparts. Bill is stout and black, eyes are red and legs are yellow. Sexes are similar. Female is smaller and lighter; has shorter plumes. Breeding adult develops long white plumes on back of head and red legs. Non-breeding adult has a duller cap and back, lacks nuchal plumes. Juvenile has brown white-streaked upperparts, white brown-streaked underparts and yellow-green legs.

Range and Habitat

Black-crowned Night-Heron: Breeds in parts of southcentral Canada throughout the U.S. (except Rocky Mountain region) to southern South America. Spends winters in southern half of U.S. Preferred habitats include swamps, streams, rivers, marshes, mud flats, and the edges of lakes that have become overgrown with rushes and cattails.

Breeding and Nesting

Black-crowned Night Heron: During the breeding season, the male establishes a territory and performs a variety of displays to attract a female. One to seven pale blue to green eggs are laid in a flimsy platform lined with roots and grass which is built near the trunk of a tree or in branches. They usually nest in colonies. Incubation ranges from 21 to 26 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Black-crowned Night-Heron: These herons are opportunistic foragers with a varied diet including fish, leeches, earthworms, insects, crayfish, mussels, squid, amphibians, lizards, snakes, rodents, birds, eggs, carrion, plant materials and garbage at landfills. Usually they feed in the evening or early morning. Typically they are solitary foragers that strongly defend their feeding territory.


Black-crowned Night-Heron: Call is a loud, barking "kowak" or "quawk" oftern heard at night or at dusk. In nesting colonies, utters a variety of croaks, barks, and other harsh calls. Also produces buzzes and hisses.

Similar Species

Black-crowned Night-Heron: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is gray overall with black face, off-white crown, and white cheeks.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The area on top of the head of the bird.
Large, conspicuous, showy feathers.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X