Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)


French: Bihoreau gris German: Nachtreiher Spanish: Martinete común

Ardea Nycticorax


, 1758,

southern Europe


Closely related to N. caledonicus, with which known to have hybridized in Java, Sulawesi and Philippines. Races hoactli and falklandicus sometimes absorbed within, respectively, nominate and obscurus. Four subspecies usually recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. n. nycticorax (Linnaeus, 1758) – C & S Europe and N Africa E to C, S & E Asia (to E China, Japan and Taiwan), and S to Java, Sulawesi, Timor and Philippines; sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Some N breeders winter in S parts of range.
  • N. n. hoactli (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – S Canada (EC Alberta to Nova Scotia) S through USA and Central and South America to N Chile and NC Argentina (Río Negro); Hawaiian Is.
  • N. n. obscurus Bonaparte, 1855 – N Chile (from Atacama) and NC Argentina (from Río Negro) S to Tierra del Fuego.
  • N. n. falklandicus E. J. O. Hartert, 1914 – Falkland Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    56–65 cm; 278–1100 g; wingspan 105–112 cm. Distinctively-plumaged heron, with black cap, white head- and neck-sides, black mantle, dark grey upperwings,... read more


    Raucous and noisy, with commonest call (typically given in flight) a “quok”, “kwark” or “kowak”,... read more


    Extremely varied, using zones of fresh, brackish or salt water, and even feeding on floating kelp... read more

    Food and feeding

    Opportunistic feeder, with very varied diet, including fish (e.g. Cyprinus, Carassius, Tilapia, ... read more


    Season varies considerably with region, but is generally in spring in temperate latitudes and during rains in tropical and subtropical... read more


    Extensive post-breeding dispersal in all directions, in Europe starting in Jun, reaching up to 1200... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to locally abundant throughout most of range; very wide range makes overall population estimate very difficult, but some... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 28 February 2020).