I’ve always found the idea of night herons mysterious, imagining I would have to go out in the gloaming or on a moonlit night to catch a glimpse of one of these intriguing creatures. Not so, at least as far as the Black-crowned night heron is concerned. Nycticorax nycticorax, to use the Black-crowned night heron’s marvelous Latin name, is found across much of North America. I saw members of the species this spring and summer in both Dallas, Texas and New York City. And, despite what the field guides say about the birds being active after dusk, these night herons were going about their business in broad daylight.
One bright day in May, I saw several of the stocky little herons, hunting from the island in the little pond of NYC’s Morningside Park.
Here is a gorgeous adult bird. Note the long white feather reaching down its back, part of its spring breeding plumage. Its legs are yellow, although they may turn pink at the height of the breeding season.
Nearby stood a juvenile in drab, streaky feathers and yellow legs.
A third bird seemed to be somewhere in between juvenile and adult with the colors of an adult but without the striking color-contrast.
Apparently, night herons don’t acquire their full adult plumage until the third year. So here in this highly urban park with its postage stamp-sized pond, we have a first year, second year and third year (or later) bird. Amazing.
A family of Canada geese, with the usual darling ducklings, also enjoyed the park.
At the end of June, I visited lovely Lakeside Park in Dallas. It was midday and over 100 degrees (the start of what would be a seemingly endless succession of 100-plus-degree days for Texas), which may explain the paucity of birds and animals. I had the park to myself. The only visible members of my own species were tooling about in closed automobiles with the ac cranked.
Many large nest boxes had appeared since I last wandered Lakeside’s almost alarmingly green paths.
Who are these boxes built for? Anyone know?
A fox squirrel, far more timid than his NYC Eastern gray cousins, dashed up a tree and gave me the evil eye
Panting Great-tailed grackles were the only birds on the lawn
Birds pant to cool themselves. It’s effective, but they need to replenish the water they lose. Luckily, Lakeside Park really is by the side of a tiny lake. There, huge lily pads created a solid green field that reached quite a ways out into the water.
I saw none of the usual egrets, ducks or cormorants. But at the base of the spillway, I spied an interesting shape.
Look to the left of the dry section below.
It was a Black-crowned night heron, patiently hunting from a relatively cool damp spot