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Yellow-crowned Night-Heron


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

While not as slender as a typical heron, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s smooth purple-gray colors, sharp black-and-white face, and long yellow plumes lend it a touch of elegance. They forage at all hours of the day and night, stalking crustaceans in shallow wetlands and wet fields. Their diet leans heavily on crabs and crayfish, which they catch with a lunge and shake apart, or swallow whole. They’re most common in coastal marshes, barrier islands, and mangroves, but their range extends inland as far as the Midwest.


  • Calls
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons give a harsh squawk that may be repeated a few times per second. They call when disturbed, and also have call variations specific to the breeding season.

Other Sounds

Both males and females may clap their bills, usually when on or near the nest, before the eggs are laid. Their courtship flights include exaggerated wingbeats that produce a womp womp sound.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are especially common in coastal areas, but you can also find them inland along wooded river valleys as well as in open habitats such as wet lawns and golf courses. Look for them foraging on the ground, often along tidal creeks, where they stand still or walk slowly with a hunched-over posture. Scan with binoculars or a spotting scope across saltmarshes and look for the bold yellow-and-black patterning of the bird’s head emerging from a gap in the vegetation. Nesting birds can be well hidden in trees and may occur with other heron species. These birds are often active at night, so keep an eye out at dusk and dawn for night-herons commuting from roosts to foraging areas. During late summer and fall, young birds often wander north and west of their normal range—so be on the lookout.



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