Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Coyote Point, San Mateo County, California
23 July 2002
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 23 July 2002 by Adam Winer.
After learning of an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron found this morning by Ron Thorn and seen later by Adam Winer and Jay Withgott, Robbie Fischer and I decided to try for the bird. We left Pacifa at 4pm and arrived at Coyte Point about 4:30 where we met Kris Olson. We started down the paved levee to the southeast of the Yacht Harbor when we saw John Meyer waving that they had the bird. Maria Meyer had the bird in her scope when we arrived. Views were excellent in good light. Other birders arrived including Calvin Lou and Gary Deghi. Calvin took photos while we watched the bird.

The bird was in a fresh-water marsh southeast of the Yacht Club parking lot. Eventually the bird walked into the channel at the southwest corner of the marsh and disappeared. We had the bird in view for about an hour. Views were through scopes and binoculars. The following description is based on notes made while watching the bird:

A medium sized heron, larger than nearby Snowy Egret.

The head was black with a white crown, suffused with cream-color on the forehead and two dark-gray spots on either side of the mid-crown. A white stripe extended from below the eye toward the nape on each side of the head.. Short, spiky white plumes extended back from the nape. The bill was dagger shaped, blue-gray at the base, with a black stripe near the tip of the lower mandible. The mouth lining was deep, crimson red. Scraggly whitish feathering extended from the chin forward between the lower mandibular rami.

The body was dark-gray with a coffee-brown suffusion down the middle of the chest and on the upper back. Some pale-gray mottling was also evident on the lower breast. The back was dark gray, but the wing coverts and scapulars were neatly fringed in pale gray. However, the mid-scapulars were edged with brownish.

The legs were orange from the base to just below the ankle joints where they turned blackish, probably from the black muck in which the bird was foraging.

This is the second Yellow-crowned Night-Heron I have seen in San Mateo County. The first was a second-year bird in 1981 at Año Nuevo. An additional photo taken by Siobhan Ruck is here.