Black-crowned night heron

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The black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is a heron belonging to the family Ardeidae. The black-crowned night heron is distributed in Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Europe and Americas.

Taxonomy of black-crowned night heron

  • Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax
  • Common Name: Black-crowned night heron
  • French: Bihoreau gris; German: Nachtreiher; Spanish: Martinete comĂșn;
  • Other names: Ardea Nycticorax Linnaeus, 1758;
  • Family: Ardeidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
There are four recognized subspecies. They are: N. n. nycticorax (Linnaeus, 1758), N. n. hoactli (J. F. Gmelin, 1789), N. n. obscurus Bonaparte, 1855 and N. n. falklandicus E. J. O. Hartert, 1914.

Indian birds - Black-crowned night heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
Indian birds - Black-crowned night heron - Nycticorax nycticorax


The black-crowned night heron is medium sized bird, measuring 55 to 65 cm in length and weighing 250 to 1,100 grams. The wingspan is 105 to 110 cm. The back and crown are blackish or very dark grey. The underside of the body is whitish grey. The wings are light grey. The eyes are red and the bill is dark. The legs are light yellow or orange. Two or three long white plumes extend from the back of the head. The heron vocal call is somewhat like “kwark” or “kowak”.


The black-crowned night heron species inhabit fresh, brackish or saline water bodies. These heron species prefer water bodies with aquatic vegetation and woody margins. They inhabit forested margins of ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, lagoons, marshes and mangroves.

Feeding habits

The black-crowned night heron species are largely nocturnal in feeding. The breeding herons may be diurnal. They feed on fish, crustaceans, molluscs, leeches, frogs, reptiles, small birds, small mammals and a variety of insects.


The black-crowned night heron species construct breeding platforms on half submerged trees or trees near water. The breeding occurs usually during spring. In tropical regions these heron species breed during the rainy season.


The black-crowned night heron subspecies N. n. falklandicus occurs in Falkland Islands. The subspecies N. n. obscurus occurs in Chile and Argentina in South America. The subspecies N. n. hoactli occurs in Hawaiian Islands, Canada, USA, Central America, Chile and Argentina. The subspecies N. n. nycticorax occurs in Europe, Africa, Madagascar, Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Philippines.

Movement Patterns

The northern black-crowned night heron populations are migratory, moving southwards for wintering. The European population moves to Africa and North American populations move to Central and South America. The northward movement for breeding occur from March to May. Post breeding movement for wintering occur from September to October. They roost in large flocks.

Status and conservation

The global black-crowned night heron population is estimated to number 510,000 to 3,600,000 individuals (2006). The species is threatened by habitat destruction. The species is susceptible to avian influenza. Pesticide use in agriculture is affecting the breeding success.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these black-crowned night heron species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".
Biological classification of Nycticorax nycticorax
Species:N. nycticorax
Binomial name:Nycticorax nycticorax
Distribution:Europe, Asia, Africa, Americas;
Feeding habits:small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, small mammals, and small birds;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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