Night Heron, the common name of the division nycticoraceoe of the family ardeidce or herons. The common night heron of America is the nyeticorax ncevius (Bodd.), or nyctiardea Oardeni (Baird); the bill is 31/6 in. long above, very stout, curved from the base, with emargi-nated tip and compressed grooved sides; wings long, the second and third quills longest; tail short and even, with 12 feathers; tarsi strong, as long as the middle toe, covered with small scales; toes long and slender, united at the base by a membrane, the outer the longest, and the hind one even with the others; claws moderate, slightly curved, and acute; the neck short, with a long occipital plume of three feathers, rolled together; body slender and compressed; lower fifth of tibiae bare. The bill is black, the iris red, and the feet yellow; the head above and the middle of back steel green; wings and tail ashy blue; forehead, under parts, and occipital feathers white, passing into pale lilac on the sides and neck; the length is 25½ in., the extent of wings about 43, and the weight nearly 2 lbs.; the adult female resembles the male, but the young are grayish brown above.
It is distributed generally over the United States, residing permanently in the southern portion; in the eastern states it is called the "qua" bird from the noise which it makes. Going north in the spring, some get as far as Maine; at Hingham, Mass., and in the woods near Fresh pond, Cambridge, there used to be famous heronries, to which the birds returned year after year, until the persecutions of those in search of their young drove them away entirely, or into more inaccessible places. The nests are made of coarse sticks on bushes or trees, often overhanging the water, and are revisited and repaired annually; they congregate in large numbers in the breeding season, during winch they lose their natural shyness; the eggs are usually four, 2 by 1½ in., of a plain light sea-green color and thin-shelled. By day they are harassed by crows, hawks, and vultures, and at night by raccoons and other animals. The young birds are as tender and juicy as pigeons. They return to the south in autumn. The night heron generally remains on the low swampy lands near the coast, where it feeds upon fish, reptiles, crustaceans, water insects, leeches, and even mice and such other small animals as fall in its way.
The flight is slow, steady, and long continued, with the head drawn in and the legs extended; on the ground it is very restless, and without the grace of the true herons. - The European night heron (Ar. griseus, Strickl.) is similar, but smaller, and the young have not the white spot at the apex of the quills seen in the American bird. Several other species occur in other parts of the world.
Night Heron (Nyctiardea Garden.).