Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nyctanassa violacea is common in coastal areas of Cuba, especially in and around mangroves, and its numbers are swelled by migrants in the winter. It frequents both freshwater and saltwater habitats and feeds on a variety of crustaceans, crabs, insects, molluscs, arthropods, invertebrates, amphibians, small fish and at times small birds.
On our recent trip to Cuba we saw but one adult and a couple of juveniles.
As may be seen the adult is a handsome bird. It is mostly grey with a prominently striped black-and-white head. In breeding plumage the bird develops several long creamy-white plumes, a hint of which is seen in the picture below.
The juvenile is less splendidly dressed, being predominantly brown streaked with white and cream. The legs are a dull yellow-green. Ironically, the juvenile actually gets darker during the first year of its life.
Franc Gorenc, the photographer extraordinaire of our group, captured the remarkable sequence shown in the pictures below, of a juvenile which we saw most mornings perched in a freshwater marsh adjoining the Caribbean.
While watching the bird he noticed that it started to gulp, constrict its neck and open its bill, as though something were lodged in its gullet.
How true this turned out to be. In the next shot one can clearly see the beginning of something about to be regurgitated.
Franc has excellent equipment and is a consummate photographer and skillfully captured the entire sequence continued below. One can now clearly see that a crab or crayfish is being expelled.
Why this item was not to the bird's liking is unclear, since they are known to favour this kind of prey, and crabs were abundant in the area where we located the heron. In the next picture the heron has successfully ejected the unwanted item.
It shook itself and resumed a normal posture, seemingly glad to be rid of the obstacle in its digestive tract.
My thanks are due to Franc, firstly for his fine work, and secondly for generously allowing me to use these images on my blog.