| Order Ciconiiformes (Pelecaniformes) - Wading Birds
Family Ardeidae - Herons and Bitterns
|Wading Birds are medium to large, long-legged and long necked. Their bills are long, straight, and sharp. Most species are dependent on water for feeding. Most nest in colonies - a few are solitary. Young remain in the nest after hatching and are cared for by both parents.
The Tree of Life places herons and bitterns in the Pelecaniformes.
Herons and Bitterns are widely distributed around the world. They fly with their neck folded into an "S" and their legs folded against their body (contrast with ibises and storks). Herons typically feed on fish but may take a wide variety of small prey.
Night-Herons are stocky, nocturnal herons. They roost in trees or marshes in the day. At night, they forage in ponds and marshes. The Black-crowned Night-Heron eats mainly fish, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron eats mainly crabs and is more likely to forage during the day...
The yellow-crowned is less common than the black-crowned and juveniles of the two species are difficult to distinguish - look at the color of their lower mandible (light or yellowish in black-crowns and dark in yellow-crowns).
|■□ Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Nyctanassa violacea|
| YEAR ROUND - Uncommon (local) / Occasional (breeds?) - fewer in winter
WOODED WETLANDS - SWAMPS, LAKES LAGOONS
Adult Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have a white cap and white cheeks and long plumes on the head. The body is gray. Juveniles have a dark-thick bill (young Black-crowned Night Herons have a heavy, pointed bill with some yellow on the lower mandible). Their body is brownish with small white spots and narrow distinct streaks on the throat and breast. It is more solitary and secretive than the Black-crowned Night-Heron but may be more likely to be seen during the day depending on water level.
Adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.
Patriot's Point. Photo by Ed Konrad
|RANGE: Yellow-crowned Night Herons are resident in coastal swamps and ponds. They also extend inland up the Mississippi to about the Ohio River and west to the Texas panhandle. In winter the may be found south to Panama and the Grenadines. The range extends to Peru and Brazil, the West Indies, and the Galapagos.|
|BREEDING: Monogamous. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons build substantial platform nests in trees or shrubs, using sticks and a finer lining. They may be used more than one year. Both sexes participate in the construction. They nest solitarily or in loose colonies but are less gregarious than black-crowns. They lay 4-5 (2-8) eggs which are incubated by both parents for 21-25 days. Development is semialtricial. Young can fly after 25 days (Birder's Handbook) or 6 weeks (Kaufmann). Both sexes feed young.|
|DIET: Their diet is largely crustaceans, especially crayfish and crabs. They seldom feed the young from their bill (food is presented at the nest and young eat it). They are more likely to be active day and night. In tidal areas, their feeding is influenced by water level.|
|VOICE: They give a squawking, barking "kaow" similar to the call of the black-crowned but higher and more crow-like. The call approaches that of the Green Heron but it is deeper and less sharp.|
Seabrook. Kiawah - occasional year-round (breeds).
Coastal - fairly common summer resident, rare winter visitor. Hilton Head - fairly common permanent resident.
Cape Romain - uncommon/common (breeds)/common/uncommon.
Huntington Beach - uncommon April - June, common July - October, uncommon November - December, rare January - March.
Caw Caw - uncommon year round, breeds. ACE - uncommon/uncommon(breeds)/occasional/occasional.
CBC: ACE 1, 0, 3, 0, 0, 2, 0, 0; Charleston 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0;
Hilton Head 4, 23, 10, 2, 23, 6, 17, 3; SunCity/Okatie 0, 0, 0, 0, 6, 0, 2, 0;
McClellanville 0, 0, 0, 1, nc, 6, 3, 7; Winyah Bay x, x, 0, 75, 3, 2, 3, 3; Litchfield/Pawley's 0, 0, 2, 268, 0, 1, 0, 0.
P&G: Common breeder, uncommon winter visitor. Maximum 120 individuals Drum Island, 12 July 1976. Non-breeding maximum, estimated 200, South Island (Georgetown), 31 December 1972. Egg dates: 3 April - 1 June.
M&P: High winter count (P&G) probably in error - species is rare on the coast until late February.
Avendex: 12 records (including those cited above). Most records are between June and October.
Potter: Much less common than the Black-crowned Night-Heron but more likely to be active in daylight. Permanent resident of cypress swamps, freshwater ponds, and marshes of the coastal plain. The species tends to withdraw from most of the Carolinas in winter but a few remain in the southern coastal areas.
|● Uncommon to occasional. They should be much less common than black-crowns but I see juveniles regularly at Jenkins Point - maybe even more yellow-crowns than black-crown young. Look for them on the Jenkins Point flats early or late in the day. They also feed in the marshes north of Deer Pointe (see Carl Volker's picture)... Breeding is not known to me but they supposedly nest on Kiawah and nearby (CawCaw and ACE Basin). Golf courses? The relative abundance of young strongly suggest local breeding. I'd like to see adults!|
|Banner - Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Adult. Pitt St., Mt. Pleasant.|
KEY: ■ Seabrook list □ Kiawah list