YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nyctanassa violacea) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Yellow-crowned Night Heron breeding adult has a black head with a large light yellow crown and white cheeks. There are long, fine white head plumes. Eyes are red. Bill is pointed and black, and at the base is almost as thick as head height. Body is grey with black back and shoulders edged in light grey. Legs and feet are pinkish. Non-breeding adult has no head plumes and legs are yellowish. Immature is mottled grey and white. Juvenile is mottled brown and yellowish brown, with dark eyes. Bird length is around 65 cm (24 inches).
NAME: ‘Heron’ would mean ‘to creak or screech’ (in reference to the bird’s call). Latin genus name ‘Nyctanassa’ means ‘queen of the night’. Latin species name ‘violacea’ means ‘violet’ and would refer to the color of the bird’s back.
HABITAT: Shallow wetlands (bayous, mangroves, swamps).
DIET: Crustaceans for the most part, hunts by day and by night. Can eat turtles, as its stomach is able to digest the shell.
NESTING: May nest in colonies, sometimes with Black-crowned Night Herons. Nest is a structure made of sticks lined with finer material and located in a tree, usually high above ground. Between three and seven light green-blue eggs are laid, incubated by both parents, who also both feed the nestlings.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds mainly in southeast USA. Year-round population is found along the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America (except along the Andes and Argentina).
Distribution Map: – /media/File:Nyctanassa_violacea_map.svg
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings listed as ‘accidental’ (in the fall) so far. See note below on bird vagrancy.
CONSERVATION: Population appears stable, might be expanding range northward.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Black-crowned Night Heron (juvenile to juvenile), Green Heron
REFERENCES: (Missouri Department of Conservation) (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) (New York Natural Heritage Program) (Montana Field Guide) (University of Michigan) (Texas Breeding Bird Atlas)

Yellow-crowned Night Heron – Austin, TX – June 2013 – photo by Finelightarts
Yellow-crowned Night Heron in flight – Dec. 2017 – photo by Tomas Castelazo
Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Florida – June 2010 – photo by Terry Foote