Article and photos by Charly Mann
I have only seen the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron in one place in Oklahoma, in a small shallow pond in the middle of a dense forest outside of Bartlesville. For the past several years I have seen this lone Yellow-crowned Night Heron searching for food around thirty minutes after sunrise at least once or twice a month in August and September.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron in a small wetland area in the middle of a Bartlesville forest
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, like other herons, wades into shallow water and stands motionless until it spots its prey, usually a fish or crustacean, and then in the blink of an eye stabs its victim with its long sharp bill. While most herons only hunt during the day, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron also does so at night.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron early morning hunting (photo taken August 2010)
As far as I can determine there is not any yellow on the Yellow-crowned Night Heron's crown nor anywhere else on its body. They have a primarily bluish-gray body, and a black head with white cheeks, crown, and forehead. Their feathers are black on top and grey underneath.
Both sexes look the same, though females are somewhat smaller.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron standing motionless as it watches for its next meal
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron's population has declined over the last century and the species is considered endangered by several conservation groups.
While the Yellow-crowned Night Heron can be found in Oklahoma only during the summer, some live along the Gulf Coast and part of the Atlantic Coast all year. Most however spend their Fall, Winter, and Spring in South America.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron in flight
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron is a solitary bird, and rarely seen around other birds. They are monogamous and often live as long as six years.
Yellow-crowned Night Herons usually build their nests in trees.