The Rufous Night-Heron is resident species in Palau. The adult is almost two feet tall with reddish brown feathers, store light belly, information pills yellow eyes and legs, and a dark crown. At low tide, Rufous Night-Herons can be seen flying toward coastal areas where they come down to walk or stand in shallow water to hunt for sea creatures that are exposed by the receding tide. They hunt by day or night. In the tidal flats, Rufous Night-Herons will eat almost anything that they can catch and swallow. They prey on fish, crabs, worms and occaisionally, small birds. Because of their varied diet, Rufous Night-Herons are a reliable index of the productivity of coastal waters. If the coastal marine ecosystem is healthy and productive, there will be ample food to attract Rufous Night-Herons. If productivity is reduced by climate change, over-harvesting, pollution or sedimentation, the Rufous Night-Herons leave the area and will not return unless productivity is restored. Occasionally, Rufous Night-Herons are found inland near ponds and swamps where they hunt for insects and other invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small birds and rodents. It is not unusual to find groups of Rufous Night-Herons at landfills and aquaculture farms. These birds are probably waiting fir evening to hunt for mice, toads, cockroaches and other nocturnal pests. During breeding season, the legs, and sometimes the eyes, of an adult Rufous Night-Heron may assume a pink color, a signal that the bird is ready to mate and breed. Also during the breeding season, two or three white nuptial plumes appear on the head. Rufous Night-Herons build their breeding nests in trees near water. Young Rufous Night-Herons look very different from the adults. The body is smaller and covered with mixed brown and white feathers. Like the adults, young Rufous Night-Herons fly to coastal areas at low tide to look for food. When they arrive at the coast, the young birds will prey on the same sea creatures as the adults and are equally reliable indicators of the productivity of coastal marine ecosystems. Belau National Museum regularly monitors all shorebird and seabirds, including Rufous Night-Herons, at ten coastal stations established for the National Program for Monitoring Forest and Coastal Birds. Stations where sedimentation is high attract only one or two birds at most. Stations where the waters are pristine and productive may attract 60 or more Rufous Night-Herons at low tide. This study is called the National Program for Monitoring Forest & Coastal Birds. More information about Rufus Night-Herons and other coastal birds can be found in the State of Palau’s Birds book available at the Belau National Museum and Palau Conservation Society.
Thank you for watching this outreach program to increase awareness of species diversity and biodiversity for Palau and Micronesia. This was prepared by the Natural History Section of the Belau National Museum.