Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)


This is a medium sized heron, measuring around 58 to 66 centimetres long. It is a very distinctive bird, with a deep black bill, back and “cap” on its head, for which it gets its name. The rest of the body is white, with grey wings and red eyes. It also has two or three long white quills protruding from the head. Males and females look identical, although males are usually slightly larger. This heron has a shorter, stouter neck than that of Grey Herons (Ardeacinerea) or Purple Herons (Ardeapurpurea). As its name suggests, this bird feeds mostly at dusk or during low light. However, during the breeding season they will also be seen all throughout the day. The Night Heron stands still at the water’s edge, and wait to ambush prey, which is mainly at night or early morning, and are among seven heron species observed to engage in bait fishing, which is tossing edible objects into water within striking range.


Like other herons, this bird has a wide array of habitats, being comfortable in fresh, brackish and saline environments. However, it prefers areas of dense vegetation close to rivers, such as reed beds.


This bird has a very varied diet, and will take almost anything, from small fish, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and the chicks of other birds. It will also sometimes consume plant matter.

Protection Status

This species is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

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