The Nankeen Night Heron stands about 60cm tall with a stooped appearance. It is not strictly nocturnal. It often feeds during the day, especially during wet weather. The bird is dependent on a diet of small fish, reptiles, insects and sometimes eggs. It can be seen around freshwater rivers, lakes, bulrushes, estuaries, harbors and in residential fishponds for goldfish.
The species breeds in the period from September to April, building a nest platform out of sticks. It nests communally, near water. Two to five light green eggs are laid, with a 22-day incubation followed by a 42-49 day fledging period.
Widespread throughout its large range, the Nankeen Night Heron is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.