Herons

Rodrigues Night Herons

Rodrigues Night Herons (Nycticorax megacephalus)

The Rodrigues Night Herons (Nycticorax megacephalus) is an extinct species of heron formerly occurring on the Mascarene island of Rodrigues.

It is known from subfossil bones and the 1708 description of Leguat as well as the 1726 report of Julien Tafforet. Both authors agree that this bittern-like bird, the size of a fat chicken or small egret, was mainly terrestrial, unwary, and only flew when chased, although even in that case they initially tried to escape by running.

They apparently laid greenish eggs; one of their favorite foods was geckos, probably the Rodrigues day gecko as the other local species, the Rodrigues giant day gecko was nearly as long as the bird itself (both gecko species are nowadays extinct too).

Analysis of the fossil remains concluded that the bill of the species was very strong (hence the name megacephalus – “large-headed”) and that it was evolving towards flightlessness.

Extinction

The Rodrigues Night Herons bird appears to have been hunted to extinction in the mid-18th century. Pingré mentions in his report that no “bitterns” could be found on Rodrigues anymore in 1761.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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