I stopped at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago on the way back home from a Northern California Audubon Council meeting in Clear Lake and spotted a few Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) on the auto tour just before sunset.
This juvenile was hunting from a irrigation outlet right next to the auto tour road which circles this nearly 11,000 acre refuge in the heart of the Sacramento Valley. He or she was so focused on its feeding endeavors that it hardly noticed me just a few yards away.
The adult Black-crowned Night-Heron on the other hand, noticed me right away but apparently did not consider me a threat.
The Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most widespread heron in the world, breeding on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
You would think that this fact would make them easy to find but not necessarily so. Although widespread and common in North America, its coloration and behavior, as well as its nocturnal and crepuscular (active at twilight) feeding habits, especially outside the breeding season, render it less noticeable than many diurnal herons1.
Our National Wildlife Refuge System makes close encounters with wild birds and other animals like this possible for all Americans and foreign visitors as well. The problem is that our refuges are terribly underfunded and the thousands of acres of lost wetlands that our refuge system attempts to replace are not supplied with the water necessary to support them.
Because of these huge problems with our National Wildlife Refuge System, we will be promoting a solution to this funding dilemma: the Wildlife Conservation Stamp. This stamp would bring a much needed additional source of revenue to these national treasures. More information about this proposal coming soon.
In the meantime, if you as a wildlife or bird watcher were able to support the National Wildlife Refuges by purchasing a Wildlife Conservation Stamp as an alternative to the Duck Stamp purchased primarily by hunters, would you do it?
Think about it as you watch and listen to the sights and sounds of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge at sunset.
For more great bird posts and bird photography, check out The Bird D’pot and Wild Bird Wednesday!
References: 1Birds of North America Online