Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

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The black-crowned night heron - or night heron for short - is a seemingly stocky, compact bird with a short bill that is primarily active during the night and at dawn. Both sexes differ in size - the female is somewhat smaller - but they look the same: cap, shoulders and mantle are blue-black, the wings grey and the belly grey-white. One may notice a crest of thin, long white decorative feathers as part of the breeding plumage. The eyes are bright red and the dagger-like bill is dark coloured. Immature birds have camouflaged tones with brown and white spots. Night herons are solitary, yet will meet congregate during the breeding season (April until October) in large colonies. During this time they will nest with up to thirty pairs in one tree. The nest, in characteristic heron form starting out small with flimsy, makeshift twiggy platforms that are gradually augmented each year, is built near water. The male courting display animates the other males in the colony and entices the females. Night herons are dependent on marsh areas such as ponds, swamps and riparian forests with dense reed, bushes and trees along the banks. Where they hunt mostly for fish, amphibians and insects. Night herons are long-distance migratory birds and spend the winter in tropical and subtropical Africa. Whoever has the chance to observe birds there - well done! At first glance, night herons and striated herons resemble one another very closely and are thus easily mistaken for each other. Night herons are very rare and classed as critically endangered in Germany (Red List of Breeding Birds of Germany category 2). They are likewise listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive (Directive 79/409/EEC).

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