Observers along the Maine coast may encounter the reclusive Black-crowned Night-heron. This heron species is most active during the evening and night (hence the name). They inhabit swamps, marshes, and the edges of rivers, streams, lakes, and lagoons with fresh, salt, or brackish waters during the breeding season. Nest sites are selected by males and are typically constructed by the pair in a small tree over water. These birds give guttural, bark-like “Quock” calls while perched or in flight. Pairs have a distinct vocalization when a partner returns to the nest with food (“Woc-a-woc, woc, woc, wock-a-woc”), however, vocalizations are only rarely heard. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed their young upon hatching. Young beg for food with a distinct and persistent “Yak! Yak! Yak!” vocalization.
Safe Dates: May 1st to August 1st (applicable for only the S or H codes).
The secretive and nocturnal nature of this species means breeding behaviors are only rarely observed. Consequently, all potential breeding records should be carefully documented. Should a colony site be located, observers may see pairs working to construct their nests (code NB). Visiting the colonies later in the season increases the chances of observing incubating adults on nests (code ON) or nests with young (code NY), but note that we strongly discourage closely approaching or disturbing nesting birds.