Black-crowned Night Heron

(Nycticorax nycticorax)

Conservation Status
Black-crowned Night Heron
Photo by James Folden
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5B, N5N - Secure Breeding and Nonbreeding

SNRB - Unranked Breeding


Species in Greatest Conservation Need


Black-crowned Night Heron is a medium-sized heron.

Adults are 22¾ to 26 (58 to 66 mm) in length and have a wingspan of 45¼ to 46½ (115 to 118 mm). Males are slightly larger than females. Compared to other herons, they are stocky and the neck and legs are short.

The top of the head and the back are black. The neck, wings, rump, and tail are gray. The “cheeks”, chin, and front of the neck are white. The underparts are white to pale gray. The bill is black and stout. There is a white stripe above the bill between the eyes. The eyes are large and red. The legs are dull yellow. In breeding season, two white plumes extend down from the crown.




Total Length: 22¾ to 26 (58 to 66 mm)

Wingspan: 45¼ to 46½ (115 to 118 mm)




Similar Species


Breeding: Large wetlands

Migration: Lake shores, slow rivers, cattail marshes, swamps




April to May and September to November




It nests in colonies, often with Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons.




Mostly small fish but also amphibians, reptiles, aquatic invertebrates, small birds and mammals, carrion, and garbage at landfills.




Common but erratic migrant, rare and local breeder




The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union All Seasons Species Occurrence Map

  Class Aves (birds)  


Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises, and allies)  


Ardeidae (bitterns, egrets, herons)  




Nycticorax (night herons)  

Bitterns, egrets, and herons (family Ardeidae) were formerly classified under the order Ciconiiformes. Based on a phylogenomic study published in 2008, the family was transferred to the order Pelecaniformes.


Subordinate Taxa


American Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli)

Dusky Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax obscurus)

Eurasian Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax)

Falklands Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax falklandicus)















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James Folden



    Black-crowned Night Heron   Black-crowned Night Heron  
    Black-crowned Night Heron      






Visitor Videos

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Avi Birds

  Black-Crowned Night Heron [Nycticorax Nycticorax]
Dec 8, 2020

In this video, we learn about the black-crowned night heron, commonly referred to as the night heron.

Other Videos
  Black Crowned Night Herons - Nycticorax nycticorax
Ron Jackson

Oct 13, 2011

REGUA Brazil, September 2011. Juvenile bird followed by adults. A couple of Snowy Egrets as well.

  Black-Crowned Night Heron Dallas, Texas Nycticorax nycticorax

Apr 22, 2013

Black Crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax in Dallas County Texas April 21, 2013. This particular Black-Crowned Night Heron is in the midst of preparing a nesting site to lay eggs during breeding season. The birds in this area feed in shallow drying pools along the Trinity River where floodwaters have left numerous bait fish and aquatic food for the birds to eat.

The black-crowned night-heron breeds on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They are one of the more common herons in the United States, breeding everywhere except the southwest and Rocky Mountain states. They are found in many types of wetland habitats including riparian forests, wooded swamps, marshes, mangroves, and even occasionally grasslands or rice fields.

  Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Observatório Natural

Dec 4, 2018

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax

Recorded by: Leandro Tacioli
Location: Itatiba / SP - Brazil
Date/Time: 08/Oct/2016 - 04:50pm
Equipment: Sony Alpha A3000 (Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G)

  Black-crowned Night Heron: Dude ... and Predator--NARRATED
Jo Alwood

Jul 17, 2014

In close footage, you'll see a heron catch a mouse and a couple of fish.

You can see all my movies on my YouTube channel: Jo Alwood.

Click "Subscribe" to be notified of new movies.

  Tagging Black-Crowned Night Herons
Smithsonian's National Zoo

Jul 18, 2014

Every spring and summer the Bird House hosts some very special migratory guests -- about 100 black crowned night herons. The Bird House is their only rookery in Washington, D.C.




Visitor Sightings

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  James Folden

Location: Nicollet County, over Swan Lake

Black-crowned Night Heron  




Created: 1/9/2021

Last Updated:

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