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.
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.
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.