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.


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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