Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

6 Jul

Black-Crowned Night Heron - Kihei, Maui - 19 March 2011

During a break in a week-long series of heavy tropical downpours, I took a short walk along the beach across the road. Camera in hand, I was hoping for an interesting piece of beached flotsam to photograph. Shortly, through a break in the sand berm, I spotted a largish black-and-gray bird swoop gracefully toward me from the top of a nearby kiawe tree.

Obviously some species of heron, it landed noiselessly at the grassy edge of a runoff pond and began slow, stiff-legged prowl of the shallows. Its distinctive black “cap” and bright-red eye identified it as a Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticoryx). As I slowly moved my camera into position to take some close-up shots of what is usually a human-shy bird, this big fellow suddenly raised up, cocked a blood-red eye in my direction and instantly froze. I couldn’t have had a more cooperative subject if I’d paid him and had him sign a model’s release form!

This species of Night Heron is relatively common in Maui’s sheltered wetlands. Because they feed on insects and small fish, these birds are often seen nicking fish from the many small decorative freshwater ponds of coastal residences. I photographed one bird stalking fish along the shoreline at Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary (Kahului, Maui). The following photographs show this very determined hunter stalking and eventually catching one of the small freshwater fish that thrive in the warm shallow water of the pond.

Night Heron @ Kanaha Pond

The hunter spots his prey and slowly edges closer…

The photos (mouse-click on each to see larger versions) span about an hour of time I spent patiently watching and edging closer to this very wary bird.

Zeroed-in on its prospective meal (a small mullet), the bird is ready to pounce...

Zeroed-in on its prospective meal (a small mullet), the bird is ready to pounce…

 

...and a split-second later spears the fish and takes off with its meal in its beak.

…and a split-second later spears the fish and takes off with its meal in its beak

For more info on this bird, visit these websites:

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One Response to “Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)”

  1. Liz Croonquist 13 July 2014 at 10:26 AM #

    Great capture of the Black-Crowned Night Heron!

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