Fishers of Darkness
On still summer nights, you may come upon a feathered hunter standing hunched and still in your local dam or paperbark swamp, watching the dark water with a large, baleful eye.
The distinctive Nankeen Night Heron is the only nocturnal heron in Australia and one of only seven remaining species of night heron in the world.
A large, dignified bird up to 60 cm in length and with a one metre wingspan, it has rich cinnamon plumage, huge eyes adapted to night vision, and a petrol-blue beak and cap.
Your Nankeen Night Heron has been following the rains around the country, stopping off wherever there’s the promise of fish, frogs and beetles in the local waterways. Night Herons range from Fogg Dam near Darwin to Sydney Harbour, from the Clare Valley in South Australia to the Kimberley area of Western Australia.
However, despite its ability to travel long distances, the Nankeen Night Heron, like all water birds, is being impacted by shrinking inland rivers and drying swamps.
Nankeen Night Herons rely on large melaleuca, eucalyptus and casuarina trees to roost and shelter in during the day. Plant these around creeks and dams to provide habitat and nesting sites for all water birds.
DID YOU KNOW?
The scientific name of the Nankeen Night Heron is Nycticorax caledonicus. Nycticorax means ‘night raven’ – it’s no relation, but the eerie “croak, croak” call of the Nankeen Night Heron inspired its name.