Because it spends much of the day roosting hidden among dense foliage, only emerging in the twilight, the Nankeen Night-Heron is generally under-reported. Also known as Rufous Night-Heron, they occur throughout eastern and northern Australia, as well as in the western half of Western Australia. The species breeds in colonies which often comprise hundreds of pairs, with the largest colonies supporting thousands. Most of these large colonies are in the Murray–Darling Basin, and their numbers may build up quickly during wet years, and disperse when conditions deteriorate.
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.
Habitat and Range
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.
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Text © Birdlife Australia
Image © Jona Photography