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Yellow-crowned Night Heron

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 Crested Night Heron
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-Crested Night Heron hunting
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-Crested Night Heron in Oklahoma
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-crested Night Heron in flight
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.



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Sharon D      8:39 PM Wed 7/22/2015

I have seen one several times in a field beside the dental office where I work in Bartlesville . It is always early morning. The first time I saw it was after the heavy rains this spring. It has taken me awhile to identify it. I just saw it this morning. I have taken several pics of the bird.

Linda      9:49 PM Thu 7/16/2015

Several nests of these birds are living on my street in Norman, OK. They are in my backyard. One pooped on me as it flew over.

Dan      2:11 PM Tue 5/26/2015

Two were in our yard in Brookside area of Tulsa 2015-05-25. Perched on pecan trees and then landed on ground and fed for a short while.

luicina      11:32 AM Wed 5/14/2014

In La Fortune Park at 11 am. Pond at the corner of 51st and Hudson.

george davis      5:20 PM Thu 4/17/2014

there is one living in a park near a shallow creek in enid where i live george davis

ute white      8:52 AM Thu 8/16/2012

We have one in our backyard where a little creek (Crutcho Creek) is, see him every day


Robert Armendariz      2:06 PM Tue 6/5/2012

I also have seen one in the same spot for the past two years on Fort Sill.

Woody      11:54 AM Fri 5/27/2011

Saw one in McClure park in the middle of Tulsa yesterday I got some great pics..

Gina O'Pecko      6:33 PM Thu 5/19/2011

This year there are three night herons in our park! They are interesting to watch.

Gina O'Pecko      3:48 PM Mon 4/18/2011

There are two of these birds in my local park here in OKC. I just spotted one of them today. I haven't seen them since the terrible hail storm in spring 2010. I was afraid they may have perished in the storm so I was excited to see one of the birds today 4/18/2011!

dee fields      7:42 PM Sun 3/27/2011

I have two nests in tall pine trees in my yard north of Houston. There are 8
or so birds flying around my yard, must be looking for a beautiful female to nest with. Do they build nest before or after they mate?

Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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