Yellow-crowned Night-HeronNyctanassa violacea

Arthur Morris/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO
immature (1st summer)
Joanne Williams/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron


22-27" (56-69 cm). W. 3'8" (1.1 m). Medium-sized heron. Adult slate-gray with black head, white cheeks, yellowish crown and plumes, black bill, and yellow or orange legs. In flight, feet and part of legs extend beyond tail. Immature grayish brown, finely speckled with white above. Young Black-crowned Night-Herons similar but browner, with legs and feet that scarcely project beyond tail in flight.


A loud quawk! that is higher pitched than that of Black-crowned Night-Heron.


skow! calls #1 (flight)
other calls
skow! calls #3 (one call repeated twice)
skow! calls #2


Wooded swamps and coastal thickets.


Breeds from southern New England to Florida and west to Texas, mainly near coasts but in the interior north to Minnesota and along Mississippi River and its larger tributaries. Ranges more widely after nesting season. Winters along Gulf Coast and on Atlantic Coast north to South Carolina. Also in tropical America.


Like other herons with a southerly distribution, this species has increased and expanded its range northward in recent decades. Unlike the Black-crowned Night-Heron, the Yellow-crowned preys chiefly on crabs and crayfish, which it crushes with its short, powerful bill.


3-5 blue-green eggs in a nest of sticks in a tree or occasionally on the ground. Nests singly or in small colonies, occasionally with other herons.

Similar Species

adult (breeding)

Black-crowned Night-Heron

23-28" (58-71 cm). W. 3'8" (1.1 m). A medium-sized, stocky, rather short-necked heron with black crown and back, gray wings, and white underparts. Bill short and black, legs pinkish or yellowish.

American Bittern

23-34" (58-86 cm). A secretive, medium-sized, streaked brown heron. Outer wing appears blackish brown in flight, contrasting with lighter brown of inner wing and body.


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