Birds – American Black Heron

The American Black-crowned Night Heron, or Quawk, as it is usually called (N. Nycticorax naevius), is larger than its European relative, being from twenty-three to twenty-six inches long. It is uniformly glossy, greenish black above, with the forehead, sides of the head, chin, throat, and lower parts generally white, while the wings, rump, and tail are ash-gray in color. This species is widely distributed, ranging from Ontario and Manitoba southward to the Falkland Islands, including part of the West Indies. It nests in communities, often of great size, and as they are practically nocturnal in their habits, a rookery may often exist without attracting much attention. The following interesting account is from the pen of Mr. F.M. Chapman : “One may gain a far better idea of Heron life by visiting the rookery while the foliage is still glistening with dew. Then, from a distance, a chorus of croaks may be heard from the young birds as they receive what, in effect, is their supper. Old birds are still returning from fishing trips, and the frog-like monotone of the young is broken by the sudden quawks of their parents. The trees in which the nests were placed are very tall and slender, mere poles some of them, with a single nest where the branches fork; while those more heavily limbed had four, five, and even six of the plat-forms of sticks, which with Herons serve as nests; but in only a single instance was one nest placed directly below another. A conservative estimate yielded a total of five hundred and twenty-five nests, all within a circle about one hundred yards in diameter, the lowest being about thirty feet from the ground, the highest at least eighty feet above it. On entering the rookery our attention was attracted at once by the nearly grown Herons, who, old enough tó leave the nest, had climbed out on the adjoining limbs. There, silhouetted against the sky, they crouched in family groups of two, three, and four. Other broods, inhabitants of more thickly leaved trees, made known their presence above by disgorging a half-digested eel, which dropped with a thud at our feet. The vegetation beneath the well-populated trees was as white as though it had been liberally daubed with whitewash, and the ground was strewn with blue-green egg-shells neatly broken in two across the middle; fish, principally eels, in various stages of digestion and decay; and the bodies of young birds that had met with an untimely death by falling from above. It was not altogether a savory place. As the sun crept upward and the last fishers re-turned, the calls of both old and young birds were heard less and less often, and by ten o’clock night had fallen on the rookery and the birds were all resting quietly. Four o’clock in the afternoon was evidently early morning, and at this hour the birds first began to leave the rookery for their fishing grounds.”