Photo of a yellow-crowned night heron eating a crab.  Photo credit to Flickr user ImageHunter1.The yellow-crowned night heron lives in unique and interesting habitats, and in these habitats it interacts with various other species. The yellow-crowned night heron is both nocturnal and crepuscular feeding mostly at night. While feeding they most commonly use the stand and wait method, where the heron waits for prey to approach while standing motionless in or near the water (Kushlan 1976).

The other method used is the walk slowly method, where the heron slowly stalks the prey then strikes when it comes close enough (Kushlan 1976; Meyericks 1960). In this hunting strategy, the heron will usually swallow the crab whole; if the organism is too large, they will shake the crab until its limbs are severed and small enough to swallow (Wingate 1982).

In a study of the niche overlap between the scarlet ibis and the yellow-crowned night heron, it was seen that in most areas they inhabit, like mangrove swamps, they are the only carcinophagus (or crab eating) birds (Martinez 2004). These swamps are dominated by various trees such as the Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), in which the yellow-crowned night heron may nest.

Photo of a yellow-crowned night heron eating a crab.  Photo credit to Flickr user GTPIX.Yellow-crowned night herons differ from other waterbirds in that they specialize in preying on insects and crabs (Willard 1977). They most commonly feed on mangrove land crabs such as Ucides cordatus, Goniopsis cruentata as well as Aratus pisonii; yellow-crowned night heron also consume blue, ghost, and fiddler crabs. Other crabs consumed by the yellow-crowned night heron have been studied in past student websites, such as Cancer magister (Dungeness Crab), Cancer productus (Red Rock Crab), and Chionoecetes opilio (Snow Crab). Other than consuming crabs, night heron have also been known to hunt crayfish and insects (Martinez 2004; Watts 1995).

Yellow-crowned night herons are mostly stenophagous, feeding on a limited variety of foods (Kushlan 1976).  This species of waterbirds actively selects for larger crabs and are skilled hunters (Laubhan et al. 1991).  Herons are not particularly social birds, they typically hunt individually usually maintaining a 15 foot distance between others (Payne and Risley 1976). Continue onto the next page for more interesting facts about Nyctanassa violacea.