Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Bihoreau violacé) on Cuba

     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.


  1. Lovely birds and images, always good to see.

  2. Hi David

    Magnificent Heron.
    Beautiful pictures you have taken.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  3. Hello David!:) A lovely looking Heron, with such a cute face. I enjoyed the sequence of photos of the juvie expelling the crab. My thanks to your birding friend for taking such great images, and to you for sharing them, and introducing me to the Yellow-crowned Night Heron of Cuba.

  4. Hello David, what a stunning bird! Great the captures of the expelling of the crab.
    The adult bird with his remarkable head and eye is a beauty.

  5. The magnificent bird. Wonderful to watch these magnificent birds. Thank you .

  6. Hello David,
    Beautiful series of photos Heron
    Perfect photographed, my compliments.
    Best regards, Irma

  7. Thought you'd gotten a new camera there!

  8. Hello David!:) Thanks for sharing the info about the Muscovy Duck, ...ours don't wander amongst our cattle, but perhaps they should!! It's worth trying, especially in September when the flies are more numerous.

  9. Such a beautiful bird!
    The sequence of the young one expelling a crab/crayfish is indeed extraordinary.

  10. Hello David,
    Back from my trip today, I was impatient to see what pictures you brought back from Cuba!
    Well even if you are not the author of those pics, they are fantastic!
    I have witnessed many birds regurgitating something even Red kites. But seeing a heron do it is some sight!
    The male is very handsome indeed, it looks like he's got a mask over his head!
    I will have a quick look at your previous posts before I switch off the net!
    Warm hugs to both of you and enjoy your weekend

    1. Franc is a terrific photographer, Noushka, and a great guy too. He is not interested in creating his own blog and it would be a shame to let his pictures remain hidden from the world. I was not aware that you had been away. Where did you go to?

  11. That's a very unusual-looking heron, David. The head markings are exquisite. Super photography by Franc - thanks, Franc!

    Best wishes to you both - and Franc - - - Richard

  12. Beautiful shots of the Heron in Cuba.

  13. Goodness, all of these photo's are super.
    Thanks for sharing

    All the best Jan

  14. Nice series of a bird being sick!! I always feel it must be rather unpleasant to have to hack back up the claws of your lunch!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. Great photos of the beautiful Yellow-Crowned Night Heron and its juvenile. Have a wonderful weekend!

  16. Oh waouw !
    What formidable scenes. Congratulations to Frank.
    This heron is surprising, it has the head of a little Night Heron but not the body lol
    Good evening David.

  17. Hi David, super images by Franc and seeing the Heron regurgitating the crab is really something, a really super and lucky to be in the right place capture. All the best, Regards John

  18. Great photos of this beautiful bird !!

  19. I'm not easily with my mouth full of teeth, but this time it did.
    The Yellow Crown Night Heron is great to see. Similarly, the young series came to a lobster or crab is great regurgitates photographed beautifully. Really make an excellent series.

  20. hello david. I hear that folk who frequent McDonald's report a similar experience.

    Full marks to Franc for capturing that sequence.

    1. I expect you will be hearing from Macdinald's attorney at any minute!