Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yellow-crowned Night-heron in Toronto

I'm back in Guelph for the fall now, but had a brief time last week in Mississauga after returning from Algonquin Park. For the last couple of weeks of my time in Algonquin I was hoping that the immature Yellow-crowned Night-heron being seen daily at Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Etobicoke would stick around. Sure enough it did, and on September 3rd I went to see it with Emma Cushnie.

We found the bird without too much trouble, although at first it was not in the pond it has been normally seen.

This rare vagrant (not reported annually in Ontario) can be distinguished from the much more common Black-crowned Night-heron by its longer legs, slimmer shape, mostly dark bill and more limited white on the back and wing feathers. Incidentally, there were several Black-crowned Night-herons nearby, including both an immature for comparison with the Yellow-crowned as well as this cooperative adult we watched for a while:

As you might expect from their name, Night-herons feed largely from dusk to dawn. Less well-known is that the common Great Blue Heron is largely crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), and also commonly feeds at night.

This family of Red-necked Grebes was nearby, with two striped-headed chicks behind the adults in front. I find the disjunct population of Red-necked Grebes breeding in harbors and marinas on Lake Ontario very odd, as it seems to differ widely in both range and habitat from the main population in the prairies.

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