As mentioned in the last issue, I am highlighting some beautiful shore birds and wading birds that I photographed while in Florida this past winter. This issue we stay in the Heron Family with the beautiful and striking Yellow-crowned Night-Heron that I photographed at dawn on the Gulf of Mexico beach in Sarasota County. Large flying herons can be recognized by their curved, retracted necks hunched back between their shoulders. Their wings are deeply cambered, allowing them to brake and land slowly, and avoid damaging their long delicate legs.
The adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron has a yellowish-white crown, black face with white cheeks; grayish plumage, darker on back and streaked with black; long whitish head plumes are acquired in breeding season. Juveniles are grayish brown in color, streaked and spotted. Full adult plumage is acquired in third year.
This bird is not abundant in North Carolina. Your best chances of spotting it are in the eastern parts of the state during breeding season in spring and early summer. You actually might be more inclined to spot a Black-crowned Night-Heron in North Carolina, the adult which has a black crown and back.
Night-herons are primarily waders and mainly fish eaters. They do most of their feeding between dusk and dawn and these are the times you will have your best chance at seeing them. During daylight hours a sharp eye can pick out a stocky night-heron hunched over the edge of a pond, a shallow river, or in a nearby tree. Also listen for the short harsh woc call the herons tend to make.