Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax (Linnaeus, 1758)

Nycticorax europaeus Steph., Hristovich, 1890: 218; Nycticorax griseus (L.): Reiser, 1894: 152.

Order Ciconiiformes

Family Ardeidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU=[A2+B1(bii)], BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, BD-I, ECS-Spec-3.

General distribution. A cosmopolitan species breeding in Asia, Africa, Central and Southern America, Europe (the Pyrenean, the Apennine and the Balkan peninsula, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Moldova, the Ukraine, Southern Russia). It winters in Africa and Southern Asia. The total numbers in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean (including the Black Sea), are 30 700 45 900 breeding pairs [1].

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor and passage migrant, it rarely winters. In the past it bred, and still does, along the Danubian and the Black Sea coast, much more rarely within the country to altitudes of up to about 400 m (as an exception up to 550 m) [2, 3]. It has been found in 69 breeding places (9 of which more significant) situated along the Danubian and the Black Sea coast, Northern Bulgaria, the valleys of the rivers Maritsa, Tundzha and Arda [4]. In the second half of the 20th century, the total numbers in the country did not exceed 1 500 pairs [2]. Later it was estimated between 560 and 5 000 [5], 1 000 and 1 500 [6], 1 800 and 2 500 pairs [4, 7].

Habitats. Freshwater lakes and marshes, reservoirs and microreservoirs, fish farms, flooded and flat oak forests close to wetlands of different kinds. During migrations it is also found in shore brackish reservoirs and irrigation canals.

Biology. It mainly breeds in mixed colonies of Egrets, Glossy Ibisses, Spoonbills and Pygmy Cormorants. The nests are located in reedbeds, difficut to access, or on willows and poplars. It breeds 4-5 young ones that start flying from the beginning of July. The food mainly consists of fish, frogs and mice.

Similar species. None.

Negative factors. In the past it was shot down as a pest (in the 1950s). Probably the drying up and the degradation of the wetlands.

Conservation measures taken. The species and its habitats are protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Some of the breeding colonies are within the protected territories.

Conservation measures needed. Specifying the size of the breeding population and follow-up of its dynamic. Working out a programme for its preservation.

References. 1. Wetlands International, 2002; 2. Simeonov et al., 1989; 3. Delov, 1993; 4. Iankov, in press; 5. Kostadinova, 1997, 6. Nankinov et al., 2004; 7. BirdLife, 2004.

Authors: Tanyo Michev, Zlatozar Boev, Ventseslav Delov, Hristo Nikolov

Night Heron (distribution map)

Night Heron (drawing)