Close Encounter with a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
One benefit of kayaking in southwest Florida is the opportunity to see a variety of birds. On a good day, you are likely to see Osprey, Egrets, Blue Herons, Ibises, and an occasional Eagle. Beneath you and your kayak, there may be a manatee or even a dolphin. Smaller fish also regularly jump out of the water in pursuit of insects. At least in my experience, far rarer are encounters with the yellow-crowned night heron and its cousin, the green heron.
One day last week, I got lucky. A stately Yellow-crowned Night Heron perched itself on the branch of a mangrove tree and patiently waited as I maneuvered my kayak within photo-shooting range. After clumsily retrieving my camera from a wet-bag, I shot away—more than 20 pictures of one of my favorite friends.
At home in coast mangroves, inland swamps, and riparian woodlands, this short-necked, stocky heron has a grey body and a large black head boldly marked with a cheek patch and white crown with yellowish tints on the forehead.
Later in my Sunday morning kayak, I ran into the Black-crowned Night Heron. While also a friend, this bird is not nearly as beautiful.
I was glad to encounter him, not only for his own merit but as a reminder of how much more special its black-crowned relative is.