Fun Nankeen Night Heron Facts For Kids

Gurpuneet Kaur
Jan 09, 2023 By Gurpuneet Kaur
Originally Published on Sep 02, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Ponder upon these nankeen night heron facts to learn more about this nocturnal bird.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.1 Min

Ever heard of a fish that flies or a bird that swims? Surprising? Indeed! Nature is marvelous with many sights yet to be unveiled. It may sound weird but such creatures do exist and herons are one of them. The nankeen night heron, Nycticorax caledonicus, is among the group of herons and is native to Australia. It is also referred to as a rufous night heron due to its red-brown plumage. While the nankeen night herons have an extremely large range, native to Australia from south to west of the state, they are also found throughout northwestern countries such as New Zealand, the Philippines, Java, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the Caroline Islands in Micronesia.

The bird has several subspecies including the Nycticorax caledonicus caledonicus (New Caledonian nankeen night heron), Nycticorax caledonicus manillensis (Celebes Sea nankeen night heron), Nycticorax caledonicus crassirostris (Bonin nankeen night heron), Nycticorax caledonicus mandibularis (Solomon nankeen night heron), Nycticorax caledonicus hilli (common nankeen night heron), and Nycticorax caledonicus pelewensis (Micronesian nankeen night heron).

The nankeen night heron has white, black, gray, and cinnamon brown plumage. On the other hand, it has a striking blue beak and cap with olive-yellow facial skin, and lime-green legs and feet. It displays sexual dimorphism as the female is slightly smaller than the male. It has a varying range of nesting habitats like swamps, near shallow water bodies like the river, and it is recorded feeding on a variety of freshwater aquatic creatures such as aquatic invertebrates, crayfish, mosquito fish, crabs, frogs, lizards, mice, water beetles, crickets, ants, wasps, dragonflies, and caterpillars.

If the uniqueness of the nankeen night heron makes you interested to read more about similar species, you can read about sarus crane and tricolored heron.

Nankeen Night Heron Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a nankeen night heron?

The nankeen night herons are species of herons native to Australia. Its nesting or breeding sites are mostly located near permanent water sources. It is also called a rufous night heron.

What class of animal does a nankeen night heron belong to?

The nankeen night heron belongs to the class Aves, order Pelecaniformes, family Ardeidae, and genus Nycticorax. More specifically, the bird belongs to the group of night herons and is nocturnal, i.e. active during the nights.

How many nankeen night herons are there in the world?

Though the estimated population is not quantified, the distribution of nankeen night heron has a large range. On the other hand, it is listed as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It has a social and friendly temperament is often found living in colonies of 250 pairs and more.

Where does a nankeen night heron live?

The nankeen night heron is native to Australia but is also found throughout northwestern states. The nankeen night heron range map highlights Australia from Clare Valley in the south to the Kimberley area, New Zealand, the Philippines, Java, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the Caroline Islands in Micronesia.

What is a nankeen night heron's habitat?

The nankeen night heron habitat has a wide range including meadows, swamps, grasslands, forests, beaches, islands, and wetlands. Mostly it nests and roosts near the river, stream, and freshwater. Moreover, the birds roost in dead trees which favoring nesting sites are trees such as pines. Furthermore, they also nest in urban airports, gardens, parks, wetlands, and drylands.

Who do nankeen night herons live with?

The nankeen night herons have social temperament are often found either in breeding pairs or in colonies comprising more than 500 individuals. The birds prefer to live around the river or freshwater preying and feeding upon a great variety of food including invertebrates, crayfish, mosquito fish, crabs, frogs, lizards, mice, water beetles, crickets, ants, wasps, dragonflies, and caterpillars.

How long does a nankeen night heron live?

While the nankeen night herons do not have an estimated lifespan, the birds are speculated to have a considerably healthy life. A pink cockatoo is recorded to live for more than 80 years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding takes place all year round and often takes place in groups. The birds roost and lay eggs in nests made up of sticks and leaves. Mostly, the birds roost in dense trees located near the wetlands or swamps. Further, the females lay two to five eggs incubating them for over 21 days. The hatchlings fledge for around six to seven weeks and take their first flight post two weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The nankeen night herons are listed as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The birds furthermore are at no risk of being Endangered or Extinct considering their population size. On the other hand, Nycticorax caledonicus crassirostris (Bonin) is the only nankeen night heron that is Endangered and almost Extinct.

Nankeen Night Heron Fun Facts

What do nankeen night herons look like?

Research data provides a detailed description of the nankeen night herons. The adult birds are dark-colored with a white, blackish-brown, and gray plumage. The underparts of the birds are white, and legs and feet are mostly blue and rarely orange. The neck is thick and short with rufous-colored upper breast, neck, and cheeks. The birds portray sexual dimorphism as the length of females is slightly smaller than the males. Also, the bird develops snowy plumes, especially on the back during its breeding season. While the bill is black, it has yellow bright eyes. On the other hand, it has olive-green facial skin, and the beak and cap are blue. Furthermore, the crown is black and has two white plumes running to its back.

The juveniles are often streaked with beige on their dark blackish-brown body. The legs and feet of the young birds are olive-gray.

Nankeen Night Heron

How cute are they?

The birds are quite adorable with some striking features such as a black crown, blue beak, lemon green legs, and feet. Also, the neck of the bird is quite attractive as it is streaked with brown highlighting minute details. The eggs of the bird are quite attractive with a distinctive green-blue color. Furthermore, the nests of the birds formed with fine sticks and leaves are quite pretty and clean to sight, unlike the nest of other species.

How do they communicate?

The birds communicate via vocalizations using calls and songs. The call of the birds sounds like 'quarck quarck' during the breeding season, while the usual calls at night are high-pitched sounding like 'quok quok'. On the other hand, the nestlings hatched beg using calls that sound similar to 'kakakakakakak'.

How big is a nankeen night heron?

While herons are stocky and short, the length of the bird ranges between 21.6-25.5 in (55-65 cm).

How fast can a nankeen night heron fly?

While the flying speed of the nankeen night herons remains undeciphered, the birds are also speculated to swim.

How much does a nankeen night heron weigh?

The nankeen night heron weighs up to 28.5-35.7 oz (810-1014 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The nankeen night heron female and nankeen night heron male do not have sex-specific names.

What would you call a baby nankeen night heron?

The young nankeen night heron is also called a chick, hatchling, nestling, or fledgling.

What do they eat?

The nankeen night heron diet comprises freshwater animals like aquatic invertebrates, crayfish, mosquito fish, crabs, frogs, lizards, mice, water beetles, crickets, ants, wasps, dragonflies, and caterpillars. Crayfish is the primary source of its food.

Are they dangerous?

According to the search data documented, the birds do not pose any danger. The birds neither harm humans nor the environment. On the other hand, they are highly predatory with a diet that has a ranging variety of aquatic animals.

Would they make a good pet?

No, the birds are wild and friendly, often found in groups. They prefer to nest on trees near water and feed on a ranging variety of aquatic creatures such as frogs, fish, and invertebrates. The birds are highly predatory and advised to be kept free. Also, the search reports fail to highlight the behavior of the bird in captivity.

Did you know...

The bird is nocturnal - it is most active during the night.

They are also known as 'rookeries' as they nest in large groups or colonies often called flocks.

Do nankeen night herons migrate?

The birds are partially migratory. The nankeen night heron, with Australia as its native location, migrates in winters or during seasonal shifts. It usually travels from south to north to as far as Papua New Guinea. Though commonly found throughout Australia, the bird is now spotted in various southwestern countries.

How did the nankeen night heron get its name?

The term 'nankeen' from the nankeen night heron name defines a cotton cloth produced in China which is pale-yellow in color. Furthermore, the birds are also called rufous night herons because of their yellow-brown plumage. Also, the genus name 'Nycticorax' has a Greek origin meaning 'night raven'.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these green heron facts and reddish egret facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Nankeen night heron coloring pages.

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Written by Gurpuneet Kaur

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gurpuneet Kaur picture

Gurpuneet KaurBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

As a skilled content writer, Gurpuneet has written and managed engaging content for multiple websites and companies. Driven by a passion for helping young people achieve their full potential, she brings a unique perspective to her work. She is currently pursuing a degree in Economics from Sri Guru Gobind Singh College Of Commerce. With extensive experience as a tutor, Gurpuneet has made a significant impact by providing guidance and academic support to students. Her dedication extends beyond tutoring as she has volunteered with Action India, where she offered medical assistance and educational aid to underprivileged communities. Additionally, Gurpuneet has contributed to the creation of student study guides for various educational agencies.

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