Sunday, April 22, 2012

Central Park Night Heron

The black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax. Click to enlarge.
I saw this black-crowned night heron in Central Park on Thursday as I was walking in The Ramble near the north edge of The Lake in Central Park. It has a black cap and upper back, white feathers below, and gray wings. Its eyes are red. Its legs and feet are yellow. Males and females look the same.

Black-crowned night herons breed across North America, and are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

Black-crowned night herons are most active at dusk and during the night but they can be seen feeding at other times. For birds that are about two feet tall with a wingspan of almost four feet, they can be surprisingly hard to see. They stand completely still, waiting for prey of fish to pass within reach. They will also eat frogs, insects, worms, crayfish, or any tasty-looking thing that passes. On the dark side, black-crowned night herons are famous for raiding bird nests, mainly those of terns, gulls, and other herons. 

The black-crowned night heron grabs, not stabs, food with its bill. Its beak is serrated so it can hold securely. Fish get flipped in the air to orient them, and then swallowed head first.

I will be speaking and signing copies of my book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, at the Earth Day celebration at Camden County Community College in Blackwood, NJ, on April 24th at 9:00 a.m. in the Civic Hall. 

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