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My first visit to the rookery at the UT Southwestern Medical School campus in Dallas, TX was a month or so ago. I met fellow blogger, Jason of xenogere, for a personal tour. My second visit was a couple of weeks ago, and I took a friend along to see the wonders of this magical place first-hand. We walked around the small park, overflowing with egrets, herons, and other birds – without my camera. (I make a much better conversationalist when I don’t have a camera at the ready.) I walked around the park a second time, after offering my friend the air-conditioned comfort of my car. I struck out on my own with my camera and tripod across my shoulder.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax )

This Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) stole the show, IMO. The place was alive with the ephemeral glow of hundreds of Great Egrets (Ardea alba), but it was the secretive, lurking night-herons who captured my rapt attention.

I drew red arrows on the picture above to point out the fancy plumes that signal the night-heron is an adult. As far as I can tell, the males and females look alike, so it can be difficult to know whether we have a male or a female here.

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is named, in part, because of the black feathers on its crown (top of the head), as shown here. The other part of their name is due to the fact that they feed mostly at dusk, night, and dawn. The scientific name means “night raven.”1 Cooooool…I like that!

The males perform a courtship dance, described as follows:

“After selecting a nesting site, the male erects his breast feathers and back plumes, stretches his neck upward and forward, and bows. As he does this he treads from one foot to the other. At the lowest point in his bow he utters a hissing sound”2

I watched this heron raise and lower each foot in succession for about a minute. He did not display the other characteristics of the courtship dance, so I doubt this picture captures a moment within such an activity. Still, it is fun to imagine it, isn’t it?

If you’ve been keeping up with Birder’s Lounge, then you know that I am quite fond of featuring pages from very old bird guides. Here is the page for the Black-crowned Night-Heron from the Red Book of Birds of America:3

Another interesting tidbit I picked up about this bird is the fascinating-but-gross defensive maneuvers  they sometimes employ. “They are aggressive and defend themselves by regurgitating and defecating on intruders.”4 Nice! Can you imagine the scene if this night-heron that I was photographing decided that I was an intruder rather than a paparazzi?


Show’s over folks…move along. Besides, I had a friend waiting patiently in the car. 😉

I’ll post pics of the Great Egrets in the coming weeks.

Before I close, I would like to mention that I have been asked by Dawn (dishwashing liquid) to contribute posts to their Everyday Wildlife Champions page on Facebook. I am the first in what will be a series of featured nature/wildlife bloggers to serve as panelists in the new Wildlife Advocates section. I am supremely honored by the invitation!

Dawn has a 30-year history of wildlife rescue and has recently launched the Everyday Wildlife Champions movement for everyday people to get involved and help.  As a part of this movement, Dawn is launching Wildlife Advocates to feature bloggers and highlight the great work they have been doing. To learn more about the Wildlife Advocates, check out www.facebook.com/dawnsaveswildlife

I have been on, and then off, and now on-again with Facebook. I will remain on Facebook to facilitate my role as a blogger/panelist for Dawn’s Wildlife Advocates. So, here is my badge:

Amber Coakley | Create Your Badge

My first post on Dawn’s Everyday Wildlife Champions page is up! The next one will be posted on Friday, April 30th.

  1. The Bird Life of Texas Volume One, by Harry C. Oberholser, Edgar B. Kincaid, Jr, Editor. Copyright ©1974 by University of Texas Press. First in a series of books dedicated to Corrie Herring Hooks.
  2. The Behavior of Texas Birds, by Kent Rylander, Copyright © 2002 by The University of Texas Press. Number Fifty-three in the Corrie Herring Hooks series.
  3. The Red book of Birds of America, by Frank G Ashbrook, Illustrations by Paul Moller. Copyright ©1931 by Whitman Publishing Co
  4. See Reference 1.

16 Responses to “Black-Crowned Night-Herons at The Rookery”

  • Hugh:

    Much enjoyed post. I’m a big night-heron fan. We have a small colony nearby, which makes our little part of the world better. Very nice pictures.

  • Gorgeous shots, Amber! Very nice. They’re such beautiful creatures. So glad you’re getting a chance to visit the rookery this season. I’m looking forward to your experiences as everyone sees things differently.

  • Sweet goodness, they are gorgeous!
    Saw my first ones two weeks back, tired from migration and on\ly halfway to their destination.

  • Gorgeous photos! I love night herons’ red eyes. These guys are surprisingly common in my parents’ suburban neighborhood in the Phoenix area, and I never get tired of seeing them.

  • What a great bird! I’ve never seen one. It’s so business-like, except for the fancy plumes.

  • Hi Joy. “Business-like” is one way to describe them. I think of them as stealthy, in a benign kind of way. Unless you’re a frog. 🙂

  • Judy:

    OMG!!! I was walking Bachman Lake yesterday around 730pm and I spotted one of these beautiful birds! I knew what he was from your blog. I snapped a few shots, he is STUNNING!! I was so happy to ‘know’ what he was, thank you, Amber!

    • Hi Judy! I’ve been wondering how your weekend nature walks have been going – sounds like you had a fun time at Bachman Lake. I’m so glad that I was able to help you enjoy the outing by passing on a bit of knowledge. Makes the world a more colorful place, right?

  • Angela Mayes:


    I am Angela Mayes, my daughter Kara found a very small baby turtle in the parking lot of the Quality Mart. I am very concerned for him and need advice on how to help him. I was told it was a Alligator sanppong turtle by a neighbor. I plan to take him to PetSmart in the morning for more advice. Can you help?


    • Hi Angela,

      My suggestion is that you contact your local wildlife rehab organization. You may find one near you by searching for your state at http://NatureSquad.net,

      If you don’t find a wildlife rehab near you, call the one closest, and they may be able to help you find one closer to your home. You may also want to contact your state’s parks department.

      I once found a guinea pig running around at a nearby park and took it to Petsmart, hoping they would know what to do with it. Petsmart was unable to help me, but I did find a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing unwanted guinea pigs and placing them in new homes. This experience makes me doubt that Petsmart will be able to help you. At any rate, the baby turtle will benefit best from the advice and assistance you will find through a local rehab organization or parks department.

      Best of luck, and thank you for caring about wildlife!

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