Temporal range: Early Oligocene to present
|Black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)|
T. Forster, 1817
2 extant, see text
Nycticorax is a genus of night herons. The name Nycticorax derives from the Greek for "night raven" and refers to the largely nocturnal feeding habits of this group of birds, and the croaking crow-like call of the best known species, the black-crowned night heron. These are medium-sized herons which often are migratory in the colder parts of their ranges.
Adults are short-necked, relatively short-legged and stout herons; the two extant species both have a black crown and a whitish belly, while the wings, chest, neck and auriculars are grey or rufous depending on the species. Young birds are brown, flecked with white and grey, and are quite similar to each other in the extant species. At least some of the extinct Mascarenes taxa appear to have retained this juvenile plumage in adult birds.
They stand at the water's edge, and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night. They primarily eat small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, and small mammals. During the day they rest in trees or bushes.
- Black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
- Rodrigues night heron, Nycticorax megacephalus (extinct)
- Réunion night heron, Nycticorax duboisi (extinct)
- Mauritius night heron, Nycticorax mauritianus (extinct)
- Ascension night heron, Nycticorax olsoni (extinct)
- Niue night heron, Nycticorax kalavikai (prehistoric)
- ‘Eua night heron, Nycticorax sp. (prehistoric)
- Lifuka night heron, Nycticorax sp. (prehistoric) - may be same as ‘Eua species
- Nankeen night heron or rufous night heron, Nycticorax caledonicus
In addition, the following taxa are known from fossil bones:
- Nycticorax sp. (Early Oligocene of Fayyum, Egypt) (fossil)
- Nycticorax[verification needed] fidens (Late Miocene of McGehee Farm, US) (fossil)
- Steadman, David W.; Worthy, Trevor H.; Anderson, Atholl J.; & Walter, Richard. (2000-06-01). "New species and records of birds from prehistoric sites on Niue, southwest Pacific.". Wilson Bulletin 112 (2): 165–186. doi:10.1676/0043-5643(2000)112[0165:NSAROB]2.0.CO;2.(subscription required)