10.21.18: A look back

A Night Heron looks back while perched on a log in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 18, 2016,
9:13 a.m.

41°37'10.457" N 83°12'6.954" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/1250th second


When I think of herons I always think of the long-limbed, long-necked varieties like the Great Blue Heron, the Tri-colored Heron or the Little Blue Heron. These birds are like the graceful, better-known supermodels of the heron world.

But that world also includes stocky, less graceful heron varieties like the Black-crowned Night Heron (in this photo), the Yellow-crowned Night Heron or the Green Heron. Unlike their long-legged, long-necked cousins, these herons have shorter legs and are usually seen with their necks tucked into their bodies, which creates a hunchback appearance. Night herons are 22 to 26 inches long, much shorter than the Great Blue Heron that stands 40 to 55 inches tall.

I found this Black-crowned Night Heron perched above the water in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Lake Erie on a spring morning while I was searching for migrating warblers and other birds to photograph. The bird was perched on a fallen tree above the water, surrounded by other trees. 

Night herons, as the name implies, do most of their feeding and foraging at night. They spend much of the day hidden among leaves and branches near the water, sleeping while other herons are hunting. That’s the reason why Black-crowned or Yellow-crowned Night Herons aren’t seen as often as other herons, even though the birds are common in wetlands areas across the United States.

Almost every photo I have of night herons, either the Yellow-crowned or Black-crowned variety, show them sitting in trees at rest during the day. The heron in this photo was likely looking for one last snack before finding a spot to sleep.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.