Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Rufous Night-heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)


French: Bihoreau cannelle German: Rotrückenreiher Spanish: Martinete canelo
Other common names: Nankeen Night-heron

Ardea caledonica

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

New Caledonia


Closely related to N. nycticorax, with which known to have hybridized in Java, Sulawesi and Philippines. Race australasiae previously listed as hilli, but former has priority. Proposed race major (C & S Philippines) is included in manillensis. Five extant subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. c. crassirostris Vigors, 1839 – Bonin Is.
  • N. c. manillensis Vigors, 1831 – Philippines, Borneo, Java and Bali.
  • N. c. australasiae (Vieillot, 1823) – Sulawesi, Moluccas, Lesser Sundas and Aru Is through W Papuan Is and lowland New Guinea (including Biak I) to NW Bismarck Archipelago (Ninigo Is to Admiralty Is) and Australia (except arid interior).
  • N. c. mandibularis Ogilvie-Grant, 1888 – Bismarck Archipelago (except NW islands) to Solomon Is.
  • N. c. pelewensis Mathews, 1926 – Palau and Caroline Is (Chuuk).
  • N. c. caledonicus (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – New Caledonia.
  • Also New Zealand, where introduced (australasiae), but possibly also native#R.

    Descriptive notes

    55–65 cm; 550–1014 g; wingspan 95–116 cm. Medium-sized, stocky, short- and thick-necked heron, with short, heavy, black bill. Distinctive combination of... read more


    Vocalizations generally considered to be similar to those of N. nycticorax, including a... read more


    Inland or coastal areas of fresh or brackish water, in areas permanently or semi-permanently... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet varied and adaptable. Great variety of fish (e.g. Gambusia, Carassius), amphibians, crustaceans (shrimps and... read more


    In Australia, timing depends largely on food availability related to rainfall and water conditions; can occur year-round, but mainly Oct... read more


    Apparently essentially sedentary; post-breeding dispersal sometimes far-reaching, has presumably... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). In Australia, widespread and common in suitable habitat, some of which has suffered alteration due to drainage, clearing, burning,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Rufous Night-heron (Nycticorax caledonicus). 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 15 December 2019).