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BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON } Nycticorax nycticorax

RANGE: Global

STATUS: Common. Possibly Extirpated from New Hampshire and West Virginia; Critically Imperiled in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont, and Nova Scotia, Canada; Imperiled in Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Alberta, Canada.

THREATS: Destruction of wetlands habitat; declines in the 1960s due to the pesticide DDT

The elegant black-crowned night heron is a highly social bird that nests in large colonies in trees or on protected islands. This wetland-dependent species hunts mostly at night, waiting patiently to ambush its prey. During mating season the males break out some fancy dance moves, including “the Snap Display,” “the Advertisement Display,” and “the Stretch,” complete with bill-snapping, twig-shaking, and preening. Like their namesakes—“nycticorax” means night raven in Latin—these herons will aggressively defend their hunting and nesting territories, and even the young birds are a force to be reckoned with: they will regurgitate or defecate on intruders who venture too near the nest.

Photo © Glen Tepke