Tag Archives: Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Evening at Ding Darling

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I do love the summer clouds of Florida.

During our trip to Sanibel Island last week, we also drove through J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge one evening, to compare it with our morning sightings.

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The Roseate Spoonbills were actively feeding.

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Spoonbills feed in shallow waters, walking forward slowly while they swing their heads from side to side, sifting the muck with their wide flat bills.

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Also actively feeding: a Reddish Egret!

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Audubon, Reddish Egret

A conspicuously long-legged, long-necked wader of coastal regions, more tied to salt water than any of our other herons or egrets. Often draws attention by its feeding behavior: running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in air, raising one or both wings, and abruptly stabbing at fish.

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I really got into the Reddish Egrets on this trip. They are the rarest herons in North America and Sanibel is one place you can see them.

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Along for the ride again, the dawg.

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Incidentally, here is one of the dog-friendly things we liked about Sanibel. And it was so hot the whole time that we all needed to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.

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Reddish Egret looks a little funny head-on.

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Families were also visiting the refuge in the evening, in search of snook. These folks were also watching a manatee.

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We spotted three Reddish Egrets in three different locations, all looking for dinner. All were pretty far away so the photos aren’t great, just good enough.

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Really unique coloring.

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One wing.

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Feathers on the head and neck look sort of shaggy at times.

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Common Grackle nomming the tree berries.

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

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Birds of the refuge, Sanibel

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This morning around 8 a.m. we drove the one-way road through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge here on Sanibel Island, where we are staying for a few days.

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We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.

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Look at that red eye.

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It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.

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Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.

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Dogs are allowed in the refuge, in cars or on leashes, so we brought ours.  He’s cool with birds but the rabbits were torture.

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Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.

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John spotted it from pretty far off.

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A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.

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The refuge is home for over 245 species of birds, according the the Ding Darling website. The Roseate Spoonbills are one of the Big 5 that attract birders to the refuge. We saw some birders with scopes set up, watching this flock.

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One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.

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Bird coming towards us over the water.

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Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.

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Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.

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There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.

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Hey, bird.

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A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.

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On the side of the road in the mangroves, a Snowy Egret was standing on one leg as birds are sometimes wont to do. Love the bright yellow feet.

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Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.

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It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.

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When the car drove on, it walked towards us.

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And past.

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The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.

Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.

Nyctanassa

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I saw a brown heron-like bird fly past me and land in a tree by that pond I like in Indian RiverSide Park.

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Some sort of juvenile Night Heron – probably Yellow-crowned, I thought.

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Oh hey, what’s in the same tree? An adult.

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In the animal kingdom, among back-boned animals, their Class is Aves, Order: Pelecaniformes, Family: Ardeidae (herons), Genus: Nyctanassa. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nyctanassa violacea, is the only surviving species in the genus, as the Bermuda night heron is extinct.

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The name comes from Ancient Greek words for “night” and “lady” or “queen”, referring to the yellow-crowned night heron’s nocturnal activity and its beauty.

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The other night herons around here are Black-crowned and their genus is Nycticorax (“night raven”) with two species on earth living and the rest prehistoric or extinct.

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It was Saturday evening and the park was pretty busy, but these birds were not spooked.

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Big eyes, like the ones in stuffed toys.

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Audubon…

More solitary and often more secretive than the Black-crowned Night-Heron, the Yellow-crowned is still quite common in parts of the southeast. Particularly in coastal regions, often feeds by day as well as by night. Its stout bill seems to be an adaptation for feeding on hard-shelled crustaceans — it is called “crab-eater” in some locales.

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A good look.

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The adult flew down and stood by the water for a bit, but I left before I saw it catch any dinner.

Grow up so I can tell what you are!

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Well, there’s another one. Juvenile night heron. Yellow-crowned? Black-crowned? It’s so hard when they don’t have their crowns yet.

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Perfectly still and nicely camouflaged, at the edge of the retention pond on the corner of South Sewall’s Point Road and Ocean Boulevard.

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Sometimes the pond fountain is on, sometimes off. Looking from the Ocean Boulevard sidewalk you can glimpse the town’s nice little park beyond and a bit of the Indian River Lagoon.

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Members of Facebook’s “What’s This Bird” IDed this as a Yellow-crowned Night Heron and shared a helpful link: Birdzilla: Juvenile Night Heron Comparison.

Lazybirding June

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Gull loaf.

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A couple of young Laughing Gulls claimed a piling each at Sandsprit Park a few days ago.

Not a lot of bird action these days, with wintering birds gone and nesting season nearing the end. Or am I the lazy one?

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The grackle (Boat-tailed) is a reliable presence, easily spotted and willing to pose for portraits. This one found me, flew down from a cabbage palm, landed on a railing by the waters of Manatee Pocket and said, “HERE  I AM, LADY.”

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Yesterday evening I saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron near the entrance of the east causeway park of the Ernest Lyons Bridge. I was riding in the passenger seat of the car, with my camera on my lap and simply asked my husband to slow down, then I leaned out the window and click! (Or whatever the digital camera sound is.) That was easy.

It’s my first photo of an adult Nyctanassa violacea! (Order Pelicaniformes, family Ardeidae.)

While not as slender as a typical heron, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s smooth purple-gray colors, sharp black-and-white face, and long yellow plumes lend it a touch of elegance. They forage at all hours of the day and night, stalking crustaceans in shallow wetlands and wet fields. Their diet leans heavily on crabs and crayfish, which they catch with a lunge and shake apart, or swallow whole.

Here is a juvenile eating a crab, back in Dec. 2016 when I first moved to this exotic locale.

Night herons have big googly eyes

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I surprised this bird on the path to the Indian River Lagoon at Chastain Beach this morning. I think it’s a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

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Audubon.org: Learn to Identify and Differentiate Night-Herons

Don’t panic: There are only two.
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Night heron getting its stalk on.

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It caught a crab!

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And ate it whole!

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Gulp.

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After I took pictures and the bird stalked off into the woods, I got my dog Radar out of the car to swim in the calm lagoon waters. We had a nice walk and ball-throw on the ocean beach, but it was too rough to safely swim. And it just wouldn’t be our typical morning routine if I didn’t bring him home sandy and soaking wet. Must do something about my car today!

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Pelicans are such a combination of noble and goofy.