We’re Living the Tweet Life: Black-crowned night heron

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This stocky heron with its hunched-over appearance and menacing red eyes looks like it belongs in a suspenseful Hitchcock thriller!

However, the nocturnal activities of this statuesque black-and-gray bird are not as sinister as you might imagine. The night heron hunts at dark when there is less competition from other herons that have the advantage of reach owing to their long legs and necks. It employs two methods of hunting — ambush and bait fishing. Standing motionless on the shore, the heron waits patiently to ambush unsuspecting prey.

This clever bird may also toss a small object into the water to lure a fish within striking range — a surprising example of tool use among birds.

This adept angler is also known as the “quark” bird for its nighttime call while flying high overhead. These birds roost in colonies with nests built over salt or fresh water — including swamps, rivers, lakes, marshes, lagoons and mudflats. The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is perhaps best illustrated by the night heron who does not distinguish between its own and another bird’s chick. For the good of the colony, it will brood any chick placed in a nest.

— Jan Baumgartner

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