Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli
Status: Fairly common regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Locally common regular breeder Sandhills, locally uncommon Rainwater Basin, rare casual elsewhere. Rare casual summer visitor statewide away from breeding range.
Documentation: Specimen: WSC 275, 22 May 1977 Cherry Co.
Taxonomy: Four subspecies are recognized (Gill and Donsker 2017), nycticorax in Eurasia and Africa, obscurus in southern South America, hoactli in North America and northern South America, and falklandicus on the Falkland Islands. Pyle (2008) considered hoactli inseparable from nycticorax. Nebraska birds are hoactli.
Spring: Mar 27, 29, 29 <<<>>> summer
Most arrive in mid-Apr, but there are earlier reports 19 Mar 1980 Adams Co, and 25 Mar 1982 Douglas-Sarpy Cos.
- High counts: 84 in the eastern Rainwater Basin 26 Apr 1997 (Jorgensen 2012), 55 there 21 May 2006 (including a single flock flying over of 44), and 47 at Kissinger Basin WMA, Clay Co 27 Apr 1999.
Summer: Ducey (1988) indicated that nesting occurred statewide prior to 1920 except west of the Sandhills, but that since 1920 breeding had not occurred in the east. Currently breeding occurs regularly in the Sandhills and occasionally in the Rainwater Basin. At the latter location, a breeding colony of at least 15 birds with four nests with eggs was at Massie WPA, Clay Co 22 Jun 1981 (Jorgensen 2012), and a “very large colony” with 30 birds present and nests with eggs was at Weis (now Mallard Haven) WPA, Fillmore Co 23 Jun 1985 (Garthwright 1985). The first confirmed nesting in the Rainwater Basin since the 1985 record was of at least two nests with young at Harvard WPA, Clay Co 3 Aug 2015 along with 28 nesting adults and 10 first year immatures. Twelve were at the same site 22 Jun 2013.
Breeding season sightings elsewhere in the state are rare; two on a Perkins Co playa 15 Jun 2011 and one in Chase Co 9 Jul 2018 were unexpected there. Individuals at Funk WPA, Phelps Co and in the eastern Rainwater Basin 28 Jun 2003 and 1-7 Jul 2018 were non-breeding immatures, as is likely for two along Interstate Highway 80 in Buffalo Co 5 Jul 2016 and one in Lancaster Co 16 Jun 2018.
- Breeding Phenology:
Eggs: 14 May-20 Jul
Nestlings: 19 Jun-20 Jul
Fall: summer <<<>>> Nov 23, 24, 24
Movement is detectable beginning in mid-Jul and good numbers continue through mid-Aug. There are later records of an immature near Niobrara, Knox Co 28 Nov 2008, an immature at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 8 Dec 2000, an immature in Otoe Co 12 Dec 2019, one on the Grand Island CBC 18 Dec 2010, and another there 21 Dec 2002, a first-year bird very late at Lake Ogallala 2 Jan 1999 (Jorgensen 2001) and an immature on Salt Creek, Lincoln, Lancaster Co 11 Jan 2014.
- High counts: 100 at Funk WPA 12 Jul 1998, 59 there 20 Jul 2001, and 47 there 13 Aug 2000.
CBC: Christmas Bird Count
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)
WSC: Wayne State College
Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Garthright, W.C. 1985. Fillmore County. NBR 53: 76-77.
Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.
Jorgensen, J.G. 2001. 1999 (Eleventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 69: 85-91.
Jorgensen, J.G. 2012. Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Pyle, P. 2008. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part II, Anatidae to Alcidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 28 March 2020