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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron -- Nycticorax violaceus

RANGE: Breeds from central and northeastern Texas to southern Nebraska, southeastern Minnesota, east to the lower Ohio Valley, and eastern Tennessee, southeastern Pennsylvania and Massachusetts south to South America. After breeding, disperses north to eastern Colorado, Iowa, southern Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. Winters from the Gulf Coast and coastal South Carolina south throughout breeding range.

STATUS: Much less common then black-crowned night-heron.

HABITAT: Inhabits both freshwater and saltwater habitats, usually lush river swamps but also tidal flats, stagnant backwaters or bayous of large cypress swamps, mangrove swamps, or dry, rocky, almost waterless areas on certain islands.


NEST: Nests in small to large colonies, sometimes with black-crowned, little blue, tricolored, and great blue herons, or singly, in trees or bushes and sometimes on the ground. Often nests in willows close to water, in mangroves, or in baldcypresses, usually 15 to 20 feet above ground.

FOOD: Hunts at night but also frequently by day. Unlike other herons, rarely takes fishes, but feeds largely on crustaceans, mainly crayfish, and land and fiddler crabs. Also eats mussels, frogs, aquatic insects, snails, small snakes, lizards, leeches, and terrapins.

REFERENCES: Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1962, Sykes in Farrand 1983a, Terres 1980.

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