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 Birds Scene: Night Herons

Birds Scene

Yellow-Crowned Night Herons

In summer 2007 I received a question on a bird's identity from Gulf Harbors resident, James Kaylor. He sent me the above photograph and wanted confirmation on his guess that this bird was a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. I assured him that it is a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, but it is an immature bird.

Our two Night-Heron species are fairly easy to tell apart when they are mature plumaged birds, but young birds can be very confusing. Before they get their adult feathers they can appear exactly alike. Binoculars or a photograph may be required to differentiate them. Look at their bills. A Black-crowned Night-Heron immature will have a yellow lower mandible, while the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron's bill will be all black.

As their name implies these two heron species are active at night and then roost or sleep most of the day. Although they do make rare day time appearances, like the bird Mr. Kaylor photographed.

These species of herons do have a somewhat bad reputation as predators on the chicks of other egrets and herons in their night roosts. Any nest left unattended at night risks a visit from these two species of Night-Herons.

The second photo here of an adult yellow-crowned night heron was taken poolside on Rudder Way in Gulf Harbors. Last year there was a family of two adults and baby that could be seen feeding at low tide in the evening on tiny crabs they find at water's edge. You could even hear the crunch of the crab shells!

Ken Tracey, www.westpascoaudubon.com

Posted On Monday, August 4, 2008

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