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A photo of a Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca)
Black Heron

Black Heron

Egretta ardesiaca

The black heron, also known as the black egret, is a medium-sized bird, cloaked in an alluring black plumage that is complemented by a similarly hued bill and contrasting yellow feet. During the breeding season, it adorns itself with elegant long plumes that grace its crown and nape, adding to its mystique.

Identification Tips

To identify the black heron, look for its distinctive black coloration and yellow feet. The bird stands between 42.5 to 66 cm tall and weighs approximately 0.27 to 0.39 kg. The breeding plumage, with its extended plumes on the head and neck, is particularly noteworthy.

Habitat

The black heron is partial to shallow open waters, where it can be found along the edges of freshwater lakes and ponds. Its habitat also extends to marshes, riverbanks, rice fields, and seasonally flooded grasslands. In coastal regions, it frequents tidal rivers, creeks, alkaline lakes, and tidal flats.

Distribution

This species is patchily distributed throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal and Sudan down to South Africa, with a strong presence on the eastern half of the continent and in Madagascar. There have been occasional sightings in Greece and Italy.

Behaviour

The black heron is renowned for its unique hunting method known as canopy feeding, where it creates a shade with its wings to lure fish—a behavior that has captivated audiences in documentaries. It can feed solitarily or in groups, sometimes amassing in numbers up to 200. These herons are diurnal feeders with a preference for dusk and roost communally at night. Coastal flocks are known to roost at high tide.

Diet and Feeding

Adept at fishing, the black heron's diet primarily consists of small fish, but it will also consume aquatic insects, crustaceans, and amphibians to satisfy its nutritional needs.

Breeding

The black heron nests at the onset of the rainy season, either alone or in mixed-species colonies that can number in the hundreds. Its nests are constructed from twigs and are situated over water in trees, bushes, or reed beds. The eggs are described as dark blue, and a typical clutch comprises two to four eggs.

Conservation status

The black heron is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of population decline or habitat loss at a global scale.

Black Heron Sounds


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