The easiest way to distinguish a Black-crowned Night-Heron from other herons is to look for the red eyes, black cap on top of the head, short neck, and black back on a grayish-white, stocky body (photo on the right). Apart from the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, it is the only heron in the United States that mostly operates at night, and these two species of Night-Heron have a couple long crown feathers that extend out past their necks.
- Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have red eyes too, but also have a clear white cheek stripe below their eyes, and a yellowish-white crown stripe on the top of their head.
- American Bitterns are streaky brown.
- Tricolored Herons are mostly blue and white, and have long necks.
- Green Herons have yellow eyes and are a variety of greens and browns, not black. They often hunt at night, but have far streakier color patterns than either Night-Heron.
- Least Bitterns have a black cap and black back, but on a brown body that is much smaller than a Night-Heron.
You’ll almost always find the Black-crowned Night-Heron near water, whether it be a marsh, stream, lake, or flooded field.