Most people are familiar with the Great Blue Heron, but there are many other heron species to be found around the world. One category is the Night Herons. There are seven living species of Night Heron, with two of them found in North America. As their name implies, Night Herons are most active at dusk through dawn, though you may see them any time of time. Like other herons, they’re wading birds, and almost always found around water. Here are the two Night Heron species you may spot in the U.S. or parts of Canada.
Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
The Black-Crowned Night Heron is found throughout much of the U.S. and parts of Canada at various points throughout they year. They live year-round in the South and coastal areas, and expand their range dramatically during the summer breeding season. This heron is fairly small, at about 24 inches tall, and has a habit of standing in a way that makes it looks plumper and stockier than other herons. It often holds its neck in close, so it seems to disappear. The white body with black wings and red eyes make it easy to identify. Their white head crest feathers may not always seem obvious, though they’re more so during breeding season. Juveniles have the same body shape but are brown streaked with white. They nest in groups, often with other herons and wading birds, are known to raise any type of chick that makes its way into their next.
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)
Though also small, the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron looks more like a typical heron with a long curved neck. The yellow feathers on the head are generally visible, making it easier to tell it apart from the Black-Crowned Night Heron. Additionally, while the Black-Crowned has solid patches of white and black, the Yellow-Crowned is a streaked black and white and has different patterning on the head. Juveniles have the same brown-streaked-with-white coloration as juvenile Black-Crowned Night Herons, so they can sometimes be confused. Yellow-Crowned Night Herons are more limited in range, found mainly in the Southeast and extending north during the summer breeding season.