Monday, May 15, 2006


Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax

A bit before dusk, nearly every evening these days, a Black-crowned Night-heron mysteriously appears, not a muscle moving, peering through the reeds, on the little island just south of Gapstow bridge. Capable of complete stillness for extended periods of time, screened by vegetation, and blending into the rise of rock behind him, you may not notice him at first. Which is exactly the point after all for a bird on the hunt.

Unless of course he's undertaking the process of daily grooming, a tremendously vigorous act for a creature of usual stealth. In fact there is so much movement even preteens on bicycles may take notice. They'll be walking their bikes across the bridge, the decibel level high as they top one another in telling their adventures of the day, when suddenly one will stand rooted, and say, "Look at that! Is it a penguin?."

The heron may continue his absolutions, while keeping an eye on the noise makers until they drift out of sight. When he's finished his feathers, it is back again to that marvel of stillness and hope for a possible snack, before flying into a tree around civil twilight time. It is not always the same tree, but it will be near the pond.

On Saturday, one of the Black-crowned Night-herons chose a tree placed just north of the bridge. Within a short time, a second Night-heron made either for the same spot or for the heron sitting in it, and at the last moment before collision took an abrupt right turn in the air before sweeping grandly off into the night. Though a very close encounter, the first heron , as one might suspect-- did not move a muscle.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loved that photo of the Black-crowned Night Heron

Portia said...

Do Night herons breed in Central Park?

Donegal Browne said...

Portia,

I wasn't sure if they'd ever bred here so I asked Marie Winn. Her answer was, they don't.