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Adults are approximately 64 cm (25 in) long and weigh 800 g (28 oz). They have a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or grey, red eyes, and short yellow legs. They have pale grey wings and white under parts. Two or three long white plumes, erected in greeting and courtship displays, extend from the back of the head. The sexes are similar in appearance although the males are slightly larger. Black-crowned Night Herons do not fit the typical body form of the heron family. They are relatively stocky and about 25 in tall (63 cm) with shorter bills, legs, and necks than their more familiar cousins the egrets and "day" herons. Their resting posture is normally somewhat hunched but when hunting they extend their necks and look more like other wading birds. Immature birds have dull grey-brown plumage on their heads, wings, and backs, with numerous pale spots. Their underparts are paler and streaked with brown. The young birds have orange eyes and duller yellowish-green legs. They are very noisy birds in their nesting colonies, with calls that are commonly transcribed as quok or woc, woc
Pair with juvenile. The two adults kept the young heron hidden in the reeds most of the day, but when a pair of Red-tailed Hawks came to hunt over the pond, they gave alarm calls and the three herons all gathered close together on one of the small islands. It did seem strange however, not to leave the young one hidden in the reeds.