One-Footed Night Heron


On January 13, 2024 I watched as a juvenile black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) flew to the "cormorant island" at Tingley Beach. Once it landed, it began to limp and stumble. Through my camera lens I could see that it was missing a foot.  One of my photos shows the moment when it put its weight on its stump and seemed to gasp in pain.



A sad moment, but there's reason to think that this night heron will live into adulthood. The stump appeared to be healed. Also, a black-crowned night heron hunts by waiting motionless, then extending its neck in a lightning strike as a fish or other food source comes by. This heron's continued existence indicates that it can hunt one-footed. 


The chicks of this species leave the next at about four weeks, then hunt on the ground until they learn to fly (and disperse) at six weeks. If this night heron lost its foot before leaving its nesting area, it managed to survive on the ground, one-footed, for a number of days. This heron is, it seems, a survivor.