Birda Logo
Species Guide
A photo of a Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Purple Heron

Purple Heron

Ardea purpurea

The Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), a statuesque avian, stands with a height ranging from 70 to 94 cm and boasts a wingspan of 120 to 152 cm. Despite its grand stature, it is a slender creature, tipping the scales at a mere 0.5 to 1.35 kg. This bird is slightly smaller and more svelte than its cousin, the Grey Heron, and is adorned with darker, reddish-brown plumage.

Identification Tips

Adult Purple Herons are distinguished by their black foreheads and crowns, with a dark stripe cascading down the back of the neck, culminating in a modest, dangling crest. Their heads and necks are a buffish chestnut, streaked with dark lines, while the mantle dons an oily brown hue. The upper parts and tail are a brownish grey, and the underparts are a mix of chestnut and black. During the breeding season, the beak of the adult brightens, and the eyes gleam with a yellow iris.


The Purple Heron is a denizen of marshes, lagoons, and lakes, often shrouded by dense vegetation. It has a penchant for freshwater habitats, particularly those with expansive reed beds of Phragmites. Coastal mangrove swamps are also within its realm, though less frequently visited.


This heron has a broad range that spans Africa, central and southern Europe, and the southern and eastern Palearctic. While the Western Palearctic populations are migratory, their African and tropical-Asian counterparts are mostly sedentary, save for occasional dispersive movements.


The Purple Heron is a creature of stealth and grace, often retreating to the sanctuary of reed beds. It exhibits a slow, deliberate flight, with its neck retracted and legs trailing behind. On land, it moves with long toes that allow it to traverse floating vegetation or even bushwalk without grasping the branches. Dawn and dusk are its preferred times for activity, with the bird often seen stalking or standing in ambush for its prey.

Song & Calls

The heron's vocalization is a subdued "frarnk," a quieter and higher-pitched affair compared to the Grey Heron. It is generally less vocal, but similar guttural sounds may emanate from its colonies.


Purple Herons are colonial breeders, constructing bulky nests from dead reeds or sticks in close proximity to water. They lay about five bluish-green eggs, with both parents sharing incubation duties. The young emerge after approximately four weeks and take their first flight six weeks later.

Similar Species

The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) is the most similar species, but the Purple Heron can be differentiated by its smaller size, darker plumage, and the shorter crest on its head.

Diet and Feeding

A versatile predator, the Purple Heron's diet includes fish, rodents, frogs, insects, and more. It employs both stalking and ambush tactics to capture its prey, often waiting motionlessly or slowly stalking its victim.

Conservation status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Purple Heron as "Least Concern," despite a global population trend that is on the decline. The primary threat to this species is the drainage and disturbance of wetland habitats, particularly the destruction of reed beds.

Purple Heron Sounds

Recorded by: © 
App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Purple Herons on Birda


More Herons, Bitterns

A photo of a Agami Heron (Agamia agami)

Agami Heron

Agamia agami
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Paul F
Very good database
Highly recommend. It great that this app shows you male Vs female variations when posting. Very good database I'm really impressed.
Recommend for any bird watcher
Very wholesome app: I joined this app with a new interest in watching birds to help me find out what I was spotting. The community is very active in helping identify birds which is great and everyone is very kind so it’s just a nice wholesome community. I would definitely recommend this for any bird spotter 😃
Such a great app!
I didn’t think I could enjoy birding more but this app makes it so much better. Some great features and a really great way to share your sightings with your friends or fellow birders nearby or around the world! ❤️
Patricia L
Very encouraging birding app
Easy to use, fun to see progress and encouraging to receive feedback from other users.
Alice J
Awesome Birding Community
I absolutely love the community aspect of this app. The app is so user friendly and has fun interactive challenges to get you out birding. I’ve tried others but since I’ve started using Birda I’ve not gone back!
Really great app
It’s easy to use and it’s fun to log the birds you notice on a walk or just in your garden. There’s a option to record the birds you see in a session which is really nice. Good excuse to stop for a while and just watch birds. I am also enjoying the information part where you can find out fact about birds from all over the world.
Erna M
I really like Birda
I really like Birda. I also use other birding apps and have Birda with E-bird going at the same time.
Great app for beginner twitchers
I’ve had a passion of photographing birds for a long time now but have only just gotten into proper birdwatching, and this app is brilliant for those just getting started. There is a great sense of community among users and the app is very easy to use and professional. Awesome app altogether
Simply fantastic
I love this app, it puts so much fun into recording the birds I’ve seen and heard while I’m out and about. The interface is user-friendly and suitable for all ages. It’s great to collect badges and to review my “lists”.
Mike T
Sense of Community
A great app, which is continually being improved. What really comes through is the passion of those behind the app. The sense of community is brilliant, so much help and support provided to new and/or in experienced birders.
As featured in
Birda Logo
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.