YCNH and…

Top Photo: Immature plumaged yellow-crowned night-heron pays visit to wetlands.

Night-herons have been observed in our wetlands four, perhaps, five times. All but one of those birds was a yellow-crowned night-heron (YCNH), the other, a black-crowned night-heron (BCNH).

Immature yellow-crowned night-heron.

Of the YCNHs, one of them arrived in May and spent most of the 2011 summer. The other birds were only seen briefly, for one or a few days each.

As you might suspect, night-herons often hunt at night and sleep away the day, so there may have been others visiting during my 15 years at the museum and I simply didn’t see them tucked in for the day. And, I’m never here during the night hours.

Night herons tend to move very slowly, methodically stalking their prey, though the one below clumsily leaped into the water after a crayfish, coming up with claw only.

In deep for a crayfish.

YCNHs eat a wide variety of aquatic and marine vertebrates and invertebrates. I always think first of fiddler crabs when the diet of YCNHs comes up (those small salt marsh crabs with one dual-purpose, oversized claw (used to attract mates and scare off competition). Salt marsh is where I’ve observed YCNHs most often prior to arriving in the North Carolina Piedmont. Here, my first thought concerning YCNH diet is crayfish.

Red object in bill is crayfish claw.
Close-up of claw.

Though YCNHs nest locally, they’ve never nested in our wetland (while I’ve been here). Each time I see one here I ponder whether or not they’d return the following year with others of their kind. And, though I don’t like the idea of us having sufficient invasive red swamp crayfish in our wetlands to make that possible, I secretly hope there’s enough of the dreaded beasts present to bring the birds back for nesting. It hasn’t happened yet.

The bird was still present on August 9 as this was posted, so get out there and have a look.

Though I don’t like the crayfish, it would be nice to have breeding YCNHs in the wetlands (Note large eye, better for night hunting).

There’s been at least five green herons hunting the wetlands while the YCNH visits us. And a great egret (below) showed up this morning (8.9.23). So, you’re bound to get a good view of one or the other. Who knows what’ll show up!

Great egret (8.9.23).

2 responses to YCNH and…

  1. Sammie says:

    You did it!!! I love the pictures, You got him catching and eating the Dreaded Red Swamp Craw fish!!! Besides the beautiful one close up!

    • gregdodge says:

      I saw the heron do the same this afternoon. Stalking slow and steady, it came down with a great splash! The whole crayfish came up with the heron, but it broke off at the claw as the heron turned back towards shore to eat the beast, and a claw was all the heron got.

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