Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea)


French: Bihoreau violacé German: Krabbenreiher Spanish: Martinete coronado

Ardea violacea


, 1758,

Carolina, USA


Race gravirostris often absorbed within bancrofti, and validity also of latter has sometimes been questioned. Race cayennensis included by some authors in nominate. Six subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. v. violacea (Linnaeus, 1758) – C & E USA, E Mexico and along Caribbean coast to E Costa Rica; winters S to West Indies and Panama.
  • N. v. bancrofti Huey, 1927 – Pacific coast from NW Mexico (S Baja California and C Sonora) to Nicaragua; West Indies and Bahamas; recently found breeding in S California#R.
  • N. v. gravirostris van Rossem, 1943 – Socorro I and Tres Marías Is (off W Mexico).
  • N. v. cayennensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – NE Panama, N & E Colombia and Venezuela to coastal N & E Brazil (S to Rio Grande do Sul).
  • N. v. caliginis (Wetmore, 1946) – Cocos I (W of Costa Rica), Panama and W Colombia to NW Peru (Tumbes).
  • N. v. pauper P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1870 – Galapagos Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    51–70 cm; 649–716 g; wingspan 101–112 cm. Unmistakable, with cream-white crown and crest plumes, black head with broad white streak across face, and grey... read more


    Considered rather vocal: commonest call is similar to “squawk” of Nycticorax... read more


    Very varied, but most typically frequents mangroves, large cypress swamps, tidal mudflats, marshes... read more

    Food and feeding

    Specialist in crustaceans, particularly crabs (Uca, Rithropanopeus, Panopeus, Ucides, Pachygrapsis... read more


    Laying Mar–Jul in N (USA, Mexico and Bahamas, but also Trinidad and Surinam); however, typically continues later in tropics, mostly... read more


    Generally fairly sedentary. However, majority of northern population of nominate violaceus... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Population overall considered stable, with loss and modification of mangrove forests and other coastal habitats the principal long-... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea). 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 30 March 2020).