|Yellow-Crowned Night Heron landing at a pond near the base of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Dallas, Texas|
|Yellow-Crowned Night Heron|
The quickly darkening conditions can often trick the nocturnal animals that are often active after sunset. Some of the more common birds are night herons. The two species of night herons in Texas are the Black Crowned Night Heron and Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Both species are small wading birds that are relatively unknown to most due to their reclusive nature and trait of nocturnal activity. They forage in shallow water at dusk and under the cover of night feeding on a collection of aquatic prey including fish, crayfish, frogs, tadpoles and insects.They are the dagger billed birds that are widespread along the river bottoms but so few people see them working the ponds and shallows in the dark.
|Buckeye Butterfly near the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge|
The Weather Turns Angry
|A fast changing skyscape from sunny to imminent rain in the span of a half hour|
The water feature here so often photographed as a backdrop reflection to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is a set of shallow depressions from long ago borrow pits used to build the levees. Old maps and aerial photos dating from the 1920s and 1930s show a small creek or water feature running through this area that might have existed prior to the levees being constructed. During levee construction, this area was excavated and the dirt used in the levees.
The water body starts up near Sylvan Avenue and winds down to the Continental Street Viaduct.
Black Crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
|Black Crowned Night Heron Dallas, Texas|
One of the most widespread birds on the planet, the Black-Crowned Night Heron can be found on every continent but Antarctica. Often called the Night Hawk or Night Heron, this bird of both the Old and New Worlds is steeped in old legends as a harbinger of ghostly contact with the underworld.
The bird uses a variety of shallow wetlands for foraging and employs various techniques to capture a diversity of prey including insects, fish, frogs, mice, and the young of other native waterbirds.
|Black Crowned Night Heron killing a Cattle Egret chick|
The nests in this rookery vary greatly in size, stability, and construction. Many of them are crude, loose-built platforms, made of coarse sticks, and scantily lined with twigs and feathers. Some are so small and so insecurely placed that the eggs or young are shaken out of them by heavy winds and the nests are blown out of the trees.
Rather remarkable to see this bird take on such a prey of that size. Black-Crowned Night Herons have the ability to handle the bones of other birds such as this. One of the few birds in Texas that consume other birds, whole.
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron Nyctanassa violacea
|Yellow-Crowned Night Heron in the reflecting pond of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas|
This pictured Yellow Crowned Night Heron caught the crayfish in the reflecting pond of the Calatrava Bridge in Dallas as the storms approached.
It is also not uncommon to see a Yellow Crowned Night Heron prey upon small turtles since it has a unique stomach acid to help digest the shell, much like the Black Crowned will take on small birds.
|Yellow Crowned Night Herons with the eery reflective backlight of the Calatrava Bridge casting light on the water|
Yellow Crowned Night Herons are a far rarer find in North Texas. Traditionally birds of the coast and of wetlands, they are not widely distributed here in the Dallas County area. The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron has a misleading name. The crown of this bird is actually white for most of the year. It is not until breeding season arrives that the crown turns yellow.
|Yellow Crowned Night Heron Nestling|
Yellow Crowned Night Herons traditionally do not nest with other species, preferring to nest independently in smaller groups of four or five nests. That makes finding their nesting sites much more difficult as one cannot use the tell-tale rookeries of large white feathered birds like egrets as a guide.
|Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron near the Continental Street Viaduct Dallas, Texas|
|Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron|
The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is a common wetland bird in Texas, but is listed as threatened in many of the states within its northeastern range. Loss of wetland habitat has had the greatest impact on this species. With continued conservation of our wetland areas and development of new areas we can help preserve the viewing of this species for many generations to come.
|Post-sunset glow over Dallas, August 9, 2013|