Yellow-crowned Night Heron or Orange-eyed Day Heron?

Yellow-crowned Night HeronYellow-crowned Night Heron – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/350, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm at 400mm, natural light

Despite having “Night Heron” in their name Yellow-crowned Night Herons (Nyctanassa violacea) are not strictly denizens of the dark, they can and do stalk their prey during the daylight hours too. Usually they are as active during the day as they are at night. You can see one catch and stuff itself with a Ghost Crab here in broad daylight.

The day I created the image above it had been raining just before I took the photo, the moisture laden air added vibrancy to the colors.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron portraitYellow-crowned Night Heron portrait – Nikon D200, handheld, f9, 1/400, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm at 400mm, natural light

This perched Yellow-crowned Night Heron was on a branch of a dead tree and allowed me to approach closely enough to create this portrait that shows the fine detail in its salt and sand encrusted bill.

I wonder why they didn’t call them Orange-eyed Day Herons. :-)


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. My sentiments exactly on these ridiculous vernacular names. There is no yellow on the crown that I can observe. The scientific name suggests that the gray of the head is tinged violet, which is somewhat more appropriate. Many types of warblers, for example, also have pointless vernacular names. There is the orange-crowned, Nashville, and Tennessee, the first of which never reveals its namesake color, and the latter two are only infrequently encountered from their namesake localities only in migration.

    • Matthew, during breeding season there is a slight, very small area of yellow on the crown but not nearly enough to have the name “Yellow-crowned” and the birds do feed night and day so “night Heron” does seem out of place too. I guess they have to give them a common name but some times they don’t fit well.

  2. Excellent detail in these photos Mia. Your portrait is incredible. Perfect light on that Orange-eyed Day Heron!

  3. What fabulous images, wonderful!

  4. Love this portrait shot, what a gorgeous eye.

  5. Great Portrait Shot.

  6. Great images, I like their feather patterns a lot!

  7. He’s so small. But I love the colors. Carol

  8. Haha, clever new name! Gorgeous photos as always!

  9. Super sharp! Love these Herons and their big bug eyes!

  10. Love those images, Mia. I bet those eyes don’t miss anything!

  11. Wonderful detail! Fabulous work–as always!

  12. The head shot is tremendous, thanks Mia.

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