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Black-crowned Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

Did you know?

  • These herons may seem motionless during the day, but they become more active at dusk.
  • A male chooses a nest site and attracts a female by stretching his neck and ruffling up his feathers. The female builds the nest with material supplied by her mate.
  • A female typically lays three or four eggs.
  • Both parents feed the chicks by regurgitation (spitting out food).
  • The young stay in the nest tree up to four weeks and fly at six weeks.

Evening Eaters

Like its name suggests, the black-crowned night heron is active at night, possibly to avoid competition with other heron species. It is not a picky eater. Though it primarily preys on fish, it eats almost any aquatic animal it can find, as well as rodents, snakes, birds, eggs, plant material, even carrion!

Clever Birds

This heron uses a variety of clever techniques to attract prey. One of them is a behavior called "bill vibrating" in which it rapidly opens and closes its bill in the water, which lures fish by mimicking an insect.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The Black-crowned Night Heron is widespread and abundant.


Southeast Asia, Eurasia, Africa, Hawaiian Islands, North America, Caribbean Islands, South America


Marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, lagoons, mangroves

We care about Black-crowned Night Herons

The Saint Louis Zoo supports black-crowned night herons in the Cypress Swamp at the Zoo. Learn more about how we are helping wildlife around the world.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in Historic Hill


Historic Hill

Historic Hill is a lovely stroll through one of the oldest parts of the Saint Louis Zoo. From the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage to the Spanish architectural flavor of the 1920s in the Bird House, Primate House and Herpetarium to the finishing touches of our thoroughly modern exhibits, this area of the Zoo has a unique ambiance and a nostalgic history that make it a great destination.

Explore Historic Hill