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Comparisons of juvenile Black-crowned and Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons.


The Adults of the these two species are a cinch to identify, the juveniles have variable plumage and can offer an identification challenge.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron. Photograph © Sam Crowe


Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Photograph © Sam Crowe


Juvenile night-herons

Separating juvenile night-herons is a greater challenge.

Compare these two images of the night-herons at rest.

Immature Black-Crowned on the left has a yellow and black bill. The Yellow-crowned on the right has a primarily dark bill.

The Black-crowned has a more "pointy" bill than the Yellow-crowned.

The Black-crowned has more spots on the wing and back than the Yellow-crowned.

juvenile night-herons



In flight...
Now compare the two species in flight. The feet on the Black-crowned (left) barely extend beyond the tail, while the feet on the Yellow-crowned, extend well beyond the tail. Note the white spots on the Black-crowned on the left are much reduced from the image above, and closer to those of the Yellow-crowned on the right.

juvenile night-herons



juvenile night-herons
A very pale Black-crowned Night-Heron.  Photograph © Harriet Moore


Quiz Bird

The image is as large as possible for study.
Which species do you think it is? It has lots of white spots on the wings and back.
The bill looks pale at the base, almost like a Black-crowned? How about the long legs?

juvenile night-herons

What did you decide?

It often takes a combination of characteristics to make a proper identification.

In this case you might have noticed the shape of the bill and the long legs.

While the bird has plenty of white spots on the wings and back they are generally smaller and shapped differently than those on a Black-crowned.

A pretty good indication this is a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.


Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron
To keep things interesting - here is an image of young Black-crowned with no spots - similar to the pale Black-crowned above, and virtually no tail. Photograph © Greg Lavaty



Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron
Another pale young Black-crowned Night-Heron. Photograph © Greg Lavaty


Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron
Note the size and shape of the white spots on this Black-crowned, compared to the white spots on the Yellow-crowned.