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What in the world is that strange looking bird in the tree across the street I thought, as I unknowingly watched a Yellow-crowned Night Heron work on building a nest.  As I glanced out of my hotel window in San Antonio, I couldn’t help but notice this very strange (and cool) looking bird.  He kept flying in and out of a big nest in the tree across the street from my hotel.  He would fly out to gather sticks, and he would fly back in, work on the nest for a few minutes, and fly back out again.

There were about 4 of these birds doing the same thing over and over.  It was hard to tell what kind of bird they were – they were so far away.  The next day, when I glanced out of my window, they were back at it.  Working hard building giant nests.  I really wanted to know what these birds were.

I grabbed my camera and tried to get a good picture, but here I was in San Antonio without my zoom lens.  So the picture I was able to get was very grainy and taken from very far away.  But…I was planning to send it to a friend of mine who I refer to as my “bird whisperer.”  Doesn’t matter how terrible the picture is, somehow, she is able to identify whatever I send her way.  Within just a few minutes she replied back saying I was watching a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Here he is…the Yellow-crowned Night Heron getting ready to hunt for lunch. What an interesting looking bird, right?

I was so excited, because I had never seen (or heard of) this bird before.  I had a new one to add to my list of birds I had pictures of.  Well…not sure you could consider what I had a picture, but if my bird whisperer was able to identify the bird, this picture must not have been too bad.

In my simple, not so bird-savvy brain, I just assumed this was a bird that resided in San Antonio, and that was why I had never seen or heard of this one before.  So we packed up and headed home to Allen.

Once we got settled in and unpacked, I grabbed my camera and headed to the Heard Museum near my house.  I needed to get some exercise, and like always, I lugged my camera with me.  Since I had just acquired the new Canon 100-400 zoom lens, I was ready to hit the trail to see what birds or other animals I could capture with this new super zoom lens!

I was walking quietly down the road towards a swampy area, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very strange looking bird.  I snuck up as close as I could, and then I quickly and quietly whipped out my 100-400 zoom lens.  I looked through it, and wasn’t sure I knew what this bird was.  I thought it looked similar to the Yellow-crowned Night Heron I had recently spotted in San Antonio, but since I did not get a really good look at it, and the picture I got was terrible, I wasn’t sure.

Plus, I thought the Yellow-crowned Night Heron was a bird that lived in San Antonio.  So I continued to click away getting many pictures of this totally cool bird, hoping my bird whisperer would be able to identify it for me!  When I got home, I loaded the picture onto my computer, and immediately sent it to her.  Guess what…I had captured a great photo of the Yellow-crowned Night Heron!  The same one I had just seen across from my hotel in San Antonio!  Wow!

Eventually, I got too close, and he flew up in to a nearby tree. Doesn’t he look grumpy in this picture? I think by this time, he was tired of me and my camera being in his space!

What a cool bird!  I was so happy to get a good look at him.  I decided to see what this bird was all about, and as I read up on him on the Wikipedia Website, I found out a lot of interesting facts.

The yellow-crowned night heron is a rather stocky wading bird, ranging from 55 to 70 cm (1 ft 10 in–2 ft 4 in) and from 650 to 850 g (1.43–1.87 lb), the females being a little smaller than the males. The neck, slim when extended, gives the bird a comically large head compared to its body, with a large and heavy bill.  The body and back are a smooth grey-blue, with a black scaled pattern on the wings. The long legs are yellow and turn coral, pink or red during courtship.

The most characteristic part of the yellow-crowned night heron is the head: black and glossy, with white cheeks and a pale yellow crown going from the bill, between the eyes and to the back of the head, giving the bird its common name. Such colours make the face appear striped in a horizontal black-white-black-white pattern. Long, thin, white feathers grow to the back of the crown during mating season. The bill, also black, is thick and deeply set under the eyes which are dark orange or red.

Like all herons, the yellow-crowned night heron flies with long, slow purposeful wing beats. It can be found gliding over water with its legs easily visible, extended straight below the tail, unlike the black-crowned night heron, whose legs can barely be seen in flight.

If you’re like me, and you take pictures of all these cool birds and other wildlife, but you have no idea what they are without your bird whisperer to tell you what it is, you might consider checking out the Whatbird Website.  They have so much information on just about every bird you can think of.  It is very easy to enter just a little bit of information and they can very quickly help you identify what bird you are looking at.

However, if you have your very own bird whisperer, you rarely need this website!  If it’s video you want to see, you can check to see what is available on YouTube.  Seems to me that there is a video of everything these days.   If you’re interested in seeing a Yellow-crowned Night Heron in action, click on the video below.  It’s a short video showing one hunting successfully!  Very cool!

So now you know about my first encounter with the Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  It was very exciting for me to make this new friend and learn all about him.  Be on the lookout if you haven’t seen one yet – I found the one in my pictures pretty easily.  Hard not to spot a bird that looks like this one.  Send me pictures if you have any.  Until next time…

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