Lone Black-crowned Night Heron

There is an Oregon ash between the North and South Elkins Barns at Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Lassen County CA). A great horned owl seems to have claimed this tree as its daytime roost since every time Leonard and I walk by we can see the owl tucked amid the leaves. Recently we were surprised to see a single black-crowned night heron in the tree along with the great horned owl.

Why surprised? Black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are social birds and I cannot remember seeing a lone individual before. Although they will feed during the day (mostly aquatic fish and invertebrates) as their name suggests, usually black-crowned night herons are most active at night, particularly dawn and dusk. They commonly sit hunched among leaves and branches at water’s edge during the day. This lone night heron was out in the open and the nearest water was over a quarter mile away.

Black-crowned night herons generally do not remain in Big Valley, where we live, over the winter. They are partially migratory, withdrawing from their breeding grounds at our high altitude to lower elevations nearby.

No matter how familiar Leonard and I believe we are with the fauna, unexpected surprises always remind us how little we know.

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