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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Nyctanassa violacea

Where it was photographed:  Pond on the North side of the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach State Park.

This photo is a perfect picture of the unique bay food chain; the cord grass, broken down by fungi and bacteria to become detritus (a.k.a “marine soup”) is eaten by the fiddler crab; the fiddler crab is then consumed by the Yellow-Crowed Night Heron.  Though they often go unnoticed, the semi-terrestrial fiddler crab exists by the thousands in the estuary.  The crab is another of the primary conveyers of the detrital food chain,* feeding primarily on the broken-down grasses or detritus.

As for the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, they can grow up to 27” tall and are slate-gray with black heads with a white streak along the side of their head and a yellow crown and plumes.  They have yellow to orange legs and a black bill. Yellow-Crowned Night Herons can be found from New England to Florida, mainly along coastal regions.  Aside from crabs, they also eat small fish, amphibians, and insects.