Nankeen Night Heron

The familiar can still be full of surprises when you start to look at the world with new eyes. 

Brought up in Perth, I saw my first ever Nankeen Night Heron while waiting for a Ferry to Rottnest Island only two and a bit years ago.  It was patiently watching some fisherfolk at the E Shed, calm and unperturbed by my attempt to stick a camera as close to it as I could.

Now, I see them all over the place, and know enough to tell a youngster from an adult. The adults have an almost matte cinnamon colour to their wings, bright yellow eyes and a sort of mold green around the beak area. I create a colour palette in Adobe Kuler which I think is quite cool.

The kids are all spotty, as teenagers the world over can relate. I am also of the opinion that they could have been John Cleese’s inspiration for the Ministry of Silly Walks as they have short legs and short necks and a sort of stubby looking tail, and they seem to move in a jerky, almost clockwork kind of way.

The name Nankeen refers to a buff-yellow colour and it a shade it shares with the Nankeen Kestral. As you might guess the Night part indicates that these birds are nocturnal, although no one seems to have told that to the ones I see about the place.

When it’s the time of year to ‘get it on’ these birds have glorious white feathers that look like they come out of the back of their heads.  The coolest thing I found out today is that these are called nuptial plumes, so they are the heron equivalent of a bridal veil or train. They are quite striking.

Places I’ve seen these beauties include the lake outside the Mount Hospital in the city, Herdsman Lake, The little lake north of Lake Bungana on the Maylands peninsula and if you’re lucky on the jetty outside the old Brewery.


Birdlife Australia lists these birds as having a Secure
status in WA which makes me smile.

More information

Family: Ardeidae

Please follow and like us: