Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Locally common; initially an irregular breeding bird in North America in small colonies along Atlantic Coast, but recently has increased in numbers.
HABITAT: Found in freshwater, brackish, and saltwater habitats, primarily marshes and estuaries. Prefers shallow pools bordered by shrubs and emergent vegetation.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands.
NEST: Nests in small colonies, usually with herons or other waders in a variety of habitats; in willows or mixed growths of mangroves, tropical buttonwood and salt myrtle in Florida; in willows, gum, swamp maple, bay and buttonbush in cypress swamps of South Carolina; on islands of tamarisk, waxmyrtle, and salt myrtle; in cordgrass; in mixed stands of holly, redcedar, bayberry, wild cherry, sumac, salt myrtle, Virginia creeper, wild grape, and cat greenbrier on barrier beaches along New Jersey Coast; and in cattail marshes. Nests on platforms on the ground in marshes, up to 10 feet high in shrubs and trees growing in water, in sites well covered with vegetation.
FOOD: Forages by probing in soft mud flats and in flooded fields. Eats mostly crayfish, but also snakes, grasshoppers, cutworms and other grubs, and leeches.
REFERENCES: Burger and Miller 1977, DeGraff et al. 1980, Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1962, Terres 1980.