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Temporal range: Early Oligocene to present
Black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Subfamily: Ardeinae
Genus: Nycticorax
T. Forster, 1817

2 extant, see text

Nycticorax is a genus of night herons. The name Nycticorax means "night raven" and derives from the Ancient Greek nuktos "night" and korax, "raven", it refers to the largely nocturnal feeding habits of this group of birds, and the croaking crow-like call of the best known species, the black-crowned night heron.[1]

These are medium-sized herons which often are migratory in the colder parts of their ranges.

Adults are short-necked, relatively short-legged and stout herons; the two extant species both have a black crown and a whitish belly, while the wings, chest, neck and auriculars are grey or rufous depending on the species. Young birds are brown, flecked with white and grey, and are quite similar to each other in the extant species. At least some of the extinct Mascarenes taxa appear to have retained this juvenile plumage in adult birds.

Night herons nest in colonies on platforms of sticks in a group of trees, or on the ground in protected locations such as islands or reed beds. Three to eight eggs are laid.

They stand at the water's edge, and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night, they primarily eat small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, and small mammals. During the day they rest in trees or bushes.


Stuffed night heron in the American Museum of Natural History

In addition to the species listed below, the night herons of the genera Nyctanassa and Gorsachius were formerly placed in Nycticorax, but today all major authorities consider them separate.

In addition, the following taxa are known from fossil bones:


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  2. ^ Steadman, David W.; Worthy, Trevor H.; Anderson, Atholl J. & Walter, Richard. (2000-06-01). "New species and records of birds from prehistoric sites on Niue, southwest Pacific". Wilson Bulletin. 112 (2): 165–186. doi:10.1676/0043-5643(2000)112[0165:NSAROB]2.0.CO;2. Archived from the original on 2007-05-24.(subscription required)
  3. ^ "Nycticorax nycticorax". Encyclopedia of Life. Archived from the original on 2015-03-04.

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