Nankeen Night-Heron

Did you know?

The common name of the Nankeen Night Heron arose in early colonial times from the colour of nankeen, a cotton cloth from China.

A loud croak, often at night
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Breeding season: 
Throughout year; mainly September to February in south; March to April in north.
Clutch Size: 
Up to five, usually two or three.
23 days
Nestling Period: 
45 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Plants associated with this species
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

The Nankeen Night Heron is a stocky heron with rich cinnamon upperparts, white-buff underparts, a black crown, and yellow legs and feet. The head is large, the neck short (giving a stooped appearance), and the legs relatively short. During breeding the back of the head bears three white nuptial plumes. The bill is dark olive-green, and the eyes are yellow. Young birds are heavily spotted and streaked white, brown and orange-brown. As they mature, the black cap of the adult develops first, with the body plumage remaining streaked for some time. The Nankeen Night Heron is also called the Rufous Night Heron.

Similar species: 

The Australasian BitternBotaurus poiciloptilus, is somewhat similar in form but is larger, with streaked underparts and patterned brown, buff and black upperparts, and does not have a black crown. The Striated HeronB. striatus, may resemble juveniles in having a black crown, and variable plumage, some forms of which include cinnamon, but this is found only on the underparts, not the upperparts, which are grey in all colour forms. The Striated Heron also has a line of black and white marks down the centre of the foreneck.

Where does it live?

The Nankeen Night Heron is found throughout Australia, wherever there is permanent water. It is uncommon in Tasmania.


The Nankeen Night Heron frequents well-vegetated wetlands, and is found along shallow river margins, mangroves, floodplains, swamps, and parks and gardens.

Seasonal movements: 

The Nankeen Night Heron is nomadic in response to rainfall.

What does it do?

Nankeen Night Herons feed primarily at night in shallow water on a wide variety of insects, crustaceans, fish and amphibians but can occasionally be observed feeding during the day.


The Nankeen Night Heron breeds throughout the year, depending on food availability. Breeding takes place in colonies, often together with egrets and cormorants. The nest is a loose stick platform over water. Both sexes incubate the eggs.

Living with us

Drainage of wetlands, and interruption of river flows disrupts the breeding activity of Nankeen Night Herons.

 and   @birdsinbackyards
                 Subscribe to me on YouTube