Nyctanassa Violacea – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Nyctanassa Violacea - Yellow-crowned Night-Heron found in the US

Yellow-crowned night herons, Nyctanassa violacea are one of the two-night heron species found in the Americas. The other is the black-crowned night heron. It is referred to in French as the “bihoreau violacé” and in Spanish as the “pedrete corona clara”.

Quick Overview: Nyctanassa Violacea – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Body size: Around 22-28 in (56-71 cm) and a weight of 726 g (25.6 oz)
Main colors: Gray, Brown, White, Black, Yellow
Range: Southeastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Description

A stocky heron of medium size with a gray body and brown-and-white speckled wings. The face is black and white; the crown is pale yellow and swept back in the shape of a plume. The eyes are huge and bloodshot. Bill is large and dark. Yellow is the color of the legs and feet.

Nyctanassa Violacea - Yellow-crowned Night-Heron found in the US
Nyctanassa Violacea – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Photo by: Steve @ the alligator farm


These birds have a length of 22-28 in (56-71 cm) and a weight of 726 g (25.6 oz). Their wings could range from 42-44 in (107-112 cm).


Yellow-crowned night-herons eat mostly fish. They eat crayfish and crabs, especially fiddler crabs, marsh crabs, and green crabs. Their broad, robust beaks are ideal for breaking crustacean exoskeletons. Coastal herons eat crabs, while inland herons eat crayfish. The rest of their diet is made up of aquatic and terrestrial species. Fish, amphibians (frogs and tadpoles), and eels and pipefish are all eaten by yellow-crowned night-herons.


Yellow-crowned night-herons inhabit two habitats. This species inhabits freshwater wetlands, swamps, and marshes. They are also common in freshwater lowlands and other frequently flooded areas. Yellow-crowned night-herons inhabit salt marshes, mangrove forests, and rocky, cliff-bound coastlines. Also seen on arid Caribbean islands with no freshwater.


General and foraging behavior are the two main categories of yellow-crowned night-herons’ behavior. Adult herons rarely venture into deeper waters when not foraging in wetlands, swamps, and coastal thickets. Yellow-crowned night-herons flap their wings gently and their feet and legs are visible when flying. Preening is an essential activity in this species. Adults groom themselves and each other after foraging. Night-herons hunt in shallow water, stalking prey with a sluggish motion.

Nyctanassa Violacea Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Genus: Nyctanassa
  • Species: Nyctanassa violacea

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the USA

The best time to see these birds is in the United State. Breeds from southern New England to Florida and west to Texas, mostly near the coast, but also in the interior north to Minnesota and along the Mississippi and its tributaries. Winters along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts from Texas to South Carolina.

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Nyctanassa Violacea – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

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