Black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are considered nocturnal, usually hunting during the night, evening and early morning. During the day these small herons roost, hunched in trees or bushes. Blending in with the foliage and branches, night herons are difficult to spot during the day, unless flushed. Only during the nesting season, with chicks to feed, do they hunt during daylight hours.
The black-crowned night herons have returned to the Pit River (Shasta County CA), where these pictures were taken. They begin nesting early in the season. A male first chooses a nesting site in a tree, often above water for protection, or on an island. Night herons will also nest amid cattails. The male begins building a platform nest from sticks, twigs and other woody vegetation. Once the nest is started the male displays to attract a female. After forming a pair, the male continues to collect building material which he gives to the female to finish the nest. Black-crowned night herons nest colonially, often in the same tree as other heron species. These pictured herons were very near great blue heron rookeries.
The genus and species names, nycticorax, mean “night crow/raven” or “night caller” in reference to the black-crowned night heron’s nocturnal habits and harsh crow-like call.
More information on black-capped night herons can be found in my earlier posts: “Black-crowned Night Heron” and “Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron”.