What is that bird?

A few times over recent years I’ve been asked to identify the bird pictured below.

Typically seen perched in a shady tree, such as a River Red-gum or an exotic willow – or disturbed into flight, the Nankeen Night-heron is a common local resident, albeit in small numbers. This one is a juvenile and strong evidence that it has recently fledged from a local nest. The best place to see night-herons is along the Loddon River between Newstead and Cairn Curran – most excursions will yield a few birds and while I’ve never found a nest I’d be confident that they breed in this area.

Juvenile Nankeen Night-heron, Newstead, 5th March 2017

The local Willie Wagtail was not happy!

The juveniles differ from the adults by the heavily streaked and spotted plumage – the adults are cinnamon coloured and sport several slender white plumes arising from a black crown. They will often roost in small groups and emit a series of croaking calls when disturbed. Nankeen Night-herons are largely nocturnal, feeding along waterways and around dams for small fish, frogs and invertebrates.

II

Many thanks to Rod and Wendy for alerting me to this one, currently ‘renting’ a Weeping Willow on the outskirts of Newstead!

While on the subject of herons it’s been pleasing to see good numbers of White-necked Herons over past months. It’s not unusual to see this striking species in the same habitat as Nankeen Night-herons and the more common White-faced Heron, but they inhabit some pretty different habitats as well – this one was observed in the middle of a bare paddock on the Moolort Plains.

White-necked Heron, Moolort Plains, 5th March 2017

3 responses to “What is that bird?

  1. Chris Johnston

    Geoff – Have seen the Nankeen Night Heron in Castlemaine Bot Gardens, and had both other herons fishing in my dams at Green Gully. Even had the White-faced Heron wander over to the studio, tap on the window and then wander off to the other dam – walking between the two dams. Chris

  2. Nice Nankeen night herons are a regular sighting in Geelong region on Barwon River at Buckley Falls Park and At the back of Geelong Botanical Gardens a very beautiful bird to view great at catching eels better than local fishermen to watch doing so

  3. Great post and photos, as usual Geoff. Immature Nankeen Night-Herons are often misidentified as bitterns by people not familiar with their streaky plumage, but their behaviour is very different and you’ve described it well. I hear night-herons have had a good season in many places after the widespread rains.

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