Heron of the night?

Lake Temescal in the Oakland foothills hosts quite a variety of birds, and it must have been a productive breeding site for Black-crowned Night Herons this year.  Several juvenile herons populated the creek and lakeside, amazingly immune to human presence as they posed for photos.

Juvenile birds lack the striking black cap and white chest and neck of the adults.  Mottled brown and white wings will gradually change to a pale gray over three years as they mature.

This is their typical hunting posture as they sit and wait for something interesting to swim by.  Night herons have short tails and necks, which almost looks like no neck at all when it is retracted as they sit and wait.

Juvenile birds lack the striking black cap and white chest and neck of the adults. Mottled brown and white wings will gradually change to a pale gray over three years as they mature.

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron photographed last February at Bayou Segnette park in New Orleans.

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron photographed last February at Bayou Segnette park in New Orleans.

This really is a short-necked heron -- here, the bird has its neck fully extended.  Short legs and short neck make this kind of a stocky bird.

This really is a short-necked heron — here, the bird has its neck fully extended. Short legs and short neck make this kind of a stocky bird.

Usually these birds hunt during the night and early morning hours (hence, their name!), but they may be active during the daytime as well.  This is probably the most wide-spread heron in the world, breeding and feeding in fresh and salt water wetlands throughout much of North and South America, Africa, and Asia.

The signature red eye is a striking feature of this small heron that feeds on crustaceans, fish, small birds and mammals as it waits patiently along the shoreline.

The signature orange-red eye is a striking feature of this small heron that feeds on crustaceans, fish, small birds and mammals as it waits patiently along the shoreline. A favorite food item is nestling gulls and terns, plucked from their roost at night.  Serrations along the margin of their bill help them hold on to their prey, which they may beat on a rock to immobilize them before swallowing.

3 thoughts on “Heron of the night?

    • These birds seem to be quite tame, and my daughter says they can always be found at this park. So I guess they have adapted to human presence there.

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