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A photo of a Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus)
Chinese Pond Heron

Chinese Pond Heron

Ardeola bacchus

The Chinese pond heron, Ardeola bacchus, presents a striking dichotomy in plumage between seasons. During the breeding season, it dons a vibrant attire of red, blue, and white, while outside of this period, it adopts a more subdued greyish-brown, flecked with white. This species typically measures 47 cm in length, and is characterized by white wings, a yellow bill with a black tip, yellow eyes, and yellow legs.

Identification Tips

To identify the Chinese pond heron, look for its seasonal color changes. In breeding plumage, the bird is resplendent with red and blue hues, whereas in non-breeding plumage, it appears more camouflaged with greyish-brown tones and white flecks. The contrasting white wings, yellow bill with a black tip, and yellow legs are key identifiers throughout the year.

Habitat

This heron favors shallow freshwater and saltwater wetlands, as well as ponds. It is predominantly a lowland bird, avoiding the subarctic regions in the north and high mountain ranges in the west and south of its range.

Distribution

The Chinese pond heron is native to China and adjacent temperate and subtropical regions of East Asia. While generally sticking to its known range, this species has been known to exhibit vagrancy, with sightings as far afield as Saint Paul Island, Alaska.

Behaviour

The Chinese pond heron is a fairly common sight within its range, often found foraging for food or nesting in mixed-species heronries. It is known to lay clutches of 3–6 blue-green eggs.

Diet and Feeding

A versatile feeder, the Chinese pond heron's diet consists of insects, fish, and crustaceans, which it hunts in its wetland habitat.

Similar Species

The Chinese pond heron is part of a superspecies complex that includes the Indian pond heron (A. grayii) and the Javan pond heron (A. speciosa). These species are closely related and share similar habitats but are geographically separated.

Breeding

During the breeding season, the Chinese pond heron's plumage transforms to a striking combination of red, blue, and white. It nests in mixed-species heronries and lays a clutch of 3–6 blue-green eggs.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Chinese pond heron as Least Concern, indicating that, at present, there are no immediate threats to its population numbers.

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