Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
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In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)


black-crowned night heron
(Artwork - 102)
Black-crowned Night-Heron(Nycticorax nycticorax)

The Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) has an enormous range, being found in much of temperate North America, much of South America (apart from Brazilian rainforest, high elevations and treeless areas), parts of Europe, much of southern Asia and parts of Africa, including Madagascar. It is absent from Australia and, of course, Antarctica. This is the North American subspecies, N. n. hoactli. The nominate race is found in Europe, and there are distinct forms in South America, Central America and in the Falkland Islands. In many parts of their range they are migratory, with European birds wintering in Africa.

They are common here in southern Ontario. They nest in colonies and the largest one in the Great Lakes is on the East Toronto Headland, popularly known as the Leslie Street Spit, or Tommy Thompson Park. There they compete with Double-crested Cormorants for nesting space and materials, although the cormorants will also nest on the ground, and that is being encouraged, with a lot of success, by progressive management strategies employed by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority.

Night-herons have large eyes and tend to be crepuscular (active at twilight or dusk) but also will be active both during the darkest hours of night, and in the daytime. They nest in trees or shrubs, at times rather close to the ground in and some places are very tolerant of people. I donít know if it is still there but years ago I recall an active colony in the trees above the duck exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., who didnít seem to mind all the human visitors. Their colonies tend to be of relatively short duration, and will move around, and vary considerably in size from year to year.

They often hunt along shorelines and on beaches and sand spits, but Iíve seen them on boats and wharves as well. They eat any small animals they can find including crabs and other small crustaceans, small fish, reptiles, large insects and spiders and even baby birds and small mammals.

I have shown the birds in breeding condition when the feet may turn bright pink, as opposed to the usual colour of olive-green to dull yellow or pale pinkish. I also wanted to show how the colour of an object, in this case the grey wings of the birds, can appear to change depending on the angle the light hits it relative to the position of the viewer. Although mu first sketches showed both birds fully, I realized that all my reference photos taken of birds overhead tended to show parts of them blocked by each other or vegetation so I put the tip of the beak of the lower bird behind the tree trunk. Lighting conditions were ďmade upĒ out of my head and I had fun figuring out where highlights and shadows would be.

The upper bird shows a little of an odd characteristic of the species, a few very long, extremely slender white plumes that emerge from the back of the head, and are gently curved, and flexible. They are featured in the breeding display. This is one of my favourite species to sketch, draw and paint.

This a small painting, about 9 X 12 inches, done in acrylics on compressed hardboard.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
See his website: http://barrykentmackay.ca/

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