Red-backed heron

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Red-backed heron
Nankeen Night Heron Fremantle Harbor.jpg

Red-backed heron ( Nycticorax caledonicus )

Class : Birds (aves)
Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Herons (Ardeidae)
Subfamily : Night Heron (Nycticoracinae)
Genre : Nycticorax
Type : Red-backed heron
Scientific name
Nycticorax caledonicus
( Gmelin , 1789)
Distribution area of ​​the red-backed heron

The nankeen night heron ( Nycticorax caledonicus ) is an Australasian bird art from the family of herons .


The red-backed heron is a medium-sized, stocky heron. Males reach a body length of 55 to 65 centimeters. Females are between 55 and 60 centimeters tall. The wingspan is 95 to 110 centimeters for males and 95 to 105 centimeters for females. The weight averages 800 grams. Apart from the difference in size, there is no pronounced sexual dimorphism .

Its back is reddish-brown in color, while its belly is white. Like the night heron , it wears a black cap with elongated neck feathers during the mating season. It has a black beak and light brown legs.

distribution and habitat

Its range includes all of Australia , with the exception of the arid inland, New Guinea , Melanesia , Indonesia , the Philippines , New Zealand and Java . On Tasmania, the red-backed heron is a regular wanderer. The main distribution center of the red-backed heron is the southeast of Australia. The Bonin red-backed heron , a subspecies of the red -backed heron , endemic to the Ogasawara archipelago , has not been detected since 1889 and is considered extinct.

The migratory movements of the red-backed heron have not yet been conclusively investigated. In regions that offer suitable habitats all year round, the red-backed heron is probably a resident bird. However, migratory movement can be observed in most of the Australian breeding birds.

Its preferred habitat are bodies of water of all kinds, such as wetlands , mangroves , rivers and lakes. It is also more common in urban areas, where it uses the water in parks and gardens.


The red-backed heron is predominantly nocturnal. It looks for food mainly in shallow water and in the water's edge. It often stands motionless until prey comes within reach or slowly walks through the shallow water zone. He makes particular use of the zones in which vegetation offers him privacy. But it also occurs on wet meadows or on floodplains. In years with a high number of mice, it is also observed on farmland, at roadsides, in the vicinity of grain silos and loading stations for grain. During this time it often looks for food during the day, but usually rests during the day in tree tops, in reed beds or other bank vegetation that offers it privacy.

The breeding season lasts from September to April. During this time, the red-backed heron builds its nest out of branches and twigs in a high tree near the water. It usually nests in small colonies, often with other species of heron. The female lays two to five greenish eggs there, which are incubated by both adult birds. This species is by no means completely nocturnal. Especially in rainy weather, it also looks for prey during the day. The menu includes small fish , amphibians and reptiles as well as insects and eggs .

supporting documents


  • PJ Higgins (Ed.): Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds , Volume 1, Ratites to Ducks, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1990, ISBN 0195530683
  • Peter Rowland. Birds in australia. Giessen 2000.

Web links

Commons : Nycticorax caledonicus  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Single receipts

  1. Higgins, p. 1030
  2. Higgins, p. 1031
  3. Higgins, p. 1031