The fact that, besides fish, this heron feeds on other bird’s eggs makes it a prime target for harassment. This behavior forces it to forage mainly after dark when other species are sleeping – hence the name Night Heron. It will usually rest in good cover in the daytime. A very patient fisher, it will stand motionless for hours in shallow water or on the bank to ambush any fish that’s passing by. Its secretiveness makes it a difficult species to view. Any photos that we have of this bird are the result of luck.
This species is the most widespread heron in the world (on 5 continents). It is rather short and stocky for a heron – standing only 23 to 28 inches tall, with a 20 inch long body, and a 45 inch wing span. Red eyes, yellow legs, and a black bill are other field identification traits.
Nests are constructed in thickets and occasionally in trees and, like all herons, in a colony with other birds of its species. Males construct the nests, which are used year after year. Breeding season is heralded by the lengthening of head plumes and much preening of one’s mate. The bill is rubbed repeatedly over the partner’s head, neck, and back. Three to five eggs are laid each year and need a 24 to 26 day incubation period. Both birds will sit on the eggs. The young are fed regurgitated food, fledge at 6 to 7 weeks, and take three years to mature. Juvenile breasts are speckled, which make them easy to be mistaken as Bitterns.
Night Herons are being affected by loss of habitat. The reason: the habitat they favor is also great mosquito breeding grounds – hence the draining of wetlands. Market Lake and Camas Refuge, both north of Roberts, Idaho; along with the Bear River Refuge west of Brigham City, Utah are locations where you might see this