Nankeen Night Heron

Quick Facts

Length: -
Height: -
Weight: -
Colour: Rich cinnamon upperparts, white-buff underparts, black crown and yellow legs and feet
Habitat: Well vegetated wetlands, shallow river margins, mangroves, floodplains and swamps
Food: Insects, crustaceans, fish and amphibians
Predators: -
Status: Not Present in TAS. Vulnerable in VIC. Secure in all other states and territories

The Nankeen Night Heron is a stocky heron with rich cinnamon upperparts, white-buff underparts, a black crown, and yellow legs and feet. The head is large, the neck short (giving a stooped appearance), and the legs relatively short. During breeding the back of the head bears three white nuptial plumes. The bill is dark olive-green, and the eyes are yellow. Young birds are heavily spotted and streaked white, brown and orange-brown. As they mature, the black cap of the adult develops first, with the body plumage remaining streaked for some time. The Nankeen Night Heron is also called the Rufous Night Heron.

The Australasian Bittern is somewhat similar in form but is larger, with streaked underparts and patterned brown, buff and black upperparts, and does not have a black crown. The Striated Heron may resemble juveniles in having a black crown, and variable plumage, some forms of which include cinnamon, but this is found only on the underparts, not the upperparts, which are grey in all colour forms. The Striated Heron also has a line of black and white marks down the centre of the foreneck.

The Nankeen Night Heron is found throughout Australia, wherever there is permanent water. It is uncommon in Tasmania.

The Nankeen Night Heron frequents well-vegetated wetlands, and is found along shallow river margins, mangroves, floodplains, swamps, and parks and gardens.

Nankeen Night Herons feed at night in shallow water on a wide variety of insects, crustaceans, fish and amphibians.

The Nankeen Night Heron breeds throughout the year, depending on food availability. Breeding takes place in colonies, often together with egrets and cormorants. The nest is a loose stick platform over water. Both sexes incubate the eggs.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Thursday 18th July, 2013
BirdLife Australia -


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