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Nankeen Night Heron


Nankeen Night Heron


Nycticorax caledonicus


In Centennial Parklands there is a shy and secretive bird that is mostly active at night. The Nankeen (Rufous) Night Heron is a mainly nocturnal heron than roosts during the day. It is a stocky heron with a large head, short neck and thick, quite long yellow legs.

This bird’s upper parts are a rich cinnamon-rufous and the underparts are white. The shoulders have delicate tints of cinnamon blending into the white of the belly. The head has a black crown and a black bill. During breeding there are two or three long white head plumes. They have large yellow eyes that help them find their food at night. During the day the bird’s head is hunched down onto its shoulders in a daytime roost pose.

They feed mainly on fish, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, insects and other invertebrates. Their bills have finely serrated edges that help grip slippery, active prey. They feed by plunging their bills forward while wading, standing still or shuffling a foot ahead to disturb prey. Having long legs and a flexible neck helps them feed in water.

Nankeen Night Herons can be found roosting in the cover of tall vegetation and dense trees near wetlands, billabongs and estuarine environs such as mangroves and tidal channels. During breeding they nest in loose colonies in trees over water. The breeding season is from September to January. The nest is a loosely constructed, flat platform of sticks on a horizontal fork. They lay a clutch of between 2-5 pale blue-green eggs that are incubated for about 22 days.

We are fortunate to have a small colony of Night-Herons that roost in the Parklands. Please do not disturb these birds at any time as they are very shy and the slightest disturbance could have a great effect on these birds, including possibly abandonment of their nests.

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