Tag Archives: herons

Cattle Egret in breeding plumage

Egrets

Egrets are medium to large sized birds, closely related to the Herons (see here) and belong to Ardea or Egretta genera. Similar to their (very) close relatives – Herons – they also have long legs and a long beak.

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Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron

(Nycticorax nycticorax)

IMG_8904(adult Black Crown Night Heron in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur)

Size(58-60cm): It is a small Heron but according to its size it is quite heavy.

Area: All India till 2000m in Himalayas.

Habitat: They can adjust simply anywhere around water-marshes, lakes, ponds and small streams.

IMG_3518(immature Black Crowned Night Heron)

My two words: The male has a black crown and back and the rest of the body is white or grey. Their maybe a dark black streak present over the eye. They also have a long black crest. The iris is pure red. The males are slightly larger than the females.

The juvenile birds are grey-brown and are spotted with pale all over the body.

As the name suggests, they are nocturnal – more active during the night.

The nest is built on a stick and twig platform. They mostly nest in colonies. Eggs are 3-6 in number.

IMG_0143(immature near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh)

They hunt during night time or during early mornings. The hunting style is the usual Heron style – standstill till the prey comes in the striking range and then pounce on it. They are recorded to throw floating objects in water so as to distract and bring the fish close within reach.

IMG_3447(adult)

They spend the day in trees and other shady places where they can hide and rest side by side.

IMG_0140(adult near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh)

They mostly feed on fish, frogs and some insects.

~Arjun Basandrai

Indian Pond Heron

Indian Pond Heron

(Ardeola grayii)

DSC_1697(Indian Pond Heron spend most of the day standing still close ton water)

Size(44-45cm): It is a small Heron almost the same size as that of the Little Heron.

Area: This specific species of Heron can be found anywhere around India. Ranging from dry areas of Rajasthan to the wettest place on Earth-Mawsynram, you can find it anywhere in India.

Habitat: Lakes, village ponds, river-banks and even village ditches.

My two words: Indian Pond Herons are brown in colour. They have white underparts and chin. The back is buff-brown and shoulders. The head, neck and breast are streaked with dark brown.

During the breeding season, the streaks disappear and the buff-brown back becomes rich maroon. The streaked breast and head changes to un-streaked buff-brown. The yellow bill becomes bluish at the base and black at the tip.

It usually sits whole day on the side of the water in wait of the prey and wait for it to come more closer. Indian Pond Heron is most common Heron in India but one can have a difficulty spotting when it sits still at the edge of the water body.

The still-sitting bird may appear boring but the scenario when the sitting bird suddenly takes off for a short flight. When the bird flies, its wings which appear to be brown while it stands still appear to magically change colour and become white.

IMG_3606(Indian Pond Heron with its prey)

Solitary or in parties. They usually prefer hunting alone but might be seen hunting in small groups.

The male has the duty of bringing the material required to make the nest. The nest is built by the female high atop a tree. They lay 3-5 eggs which take about a month to hatch.

They diet chiefly consists of fish but they also feed on crustaceans, amphibians and other small insects.

~Arjun Basandrai

Little Heron

Little Heron

(Butorides striata)

Litlle Heron

(Little Heron usually rest on a branch near to water)

Size(44-45cm): It is smaller than the previous Herons.

Area: All India except Himalayas.

Habitat: It can be found in marshes, ponds, lakes and riversides.

My two words: It is a grey and metallic-green bird. They have bluish-grey back and dark green-black crown and forehead. Like the other Herons the crown continues to form a short crest. The throat, chin and middle of throat. The underparts are grey-white. The juveniles tend to be browner above with streaking below.

Like other Herons, it is also quite shy and sits patiently on a low branch near water. Rarely climbs up tree branches.

Little Heron is mostly solitary. It lays 3-5 soft blue eggs. The nest is built near water and not too far high on the ground.

IMG_0905

(Little Heron high above on a tree)

They mostly feed on fish and frogs but can get to insects as well.

(Little Heron is a very shy bird)

They are nocturnal, meaning that they are more active during the night as compared to the day.

Little Heron is an easy-to-spot Heron. It is known by many names across the globe- Striated HeronGreen-Backed Heron, Mangrove Heron and of course the Little Heron.

~Arjun Basandrai

Purple Heron

Purple Heron

(Ardea purpurea)

(Adult bird during flight)

Size(80-95cm): Purple Heron is a large wader, slightly smaller and slimmer than the Grey Heron.

Habitat: It is quite evasive and prefers heavy vegetation near water where they could fish.

Area: All India except Himalayas.

IMG_0766(adult with its prey which it has pierced in the middle using its sharp, pointed bill)

My two words: Purple Heron is slaty-purple bird. The forehead and the crown are black which continue to become a thin crest. The iris is yellow. The head and neck are chestnut with a dark-purplish stripe running down on the either sides of the neck. The breast is chestnut brown.

They have long toes which help him walk over floating Flora.

Mostly solitary. The level of patience displayed by a Purple Heron bird is unparalleled. It usually stands still for hours at a stretch in wait of the right opportunity to pounce on its prey which it literally Enjoys.

They lay 5-6 blue-green eggs in their reed bed nest.  The incubation work is carried out by both the birds. The take 4 weeks to hatch and give rise to another fantastic Purple Heron.

The flight is slow with the neck curled to form ans S-shape and the legs outstretched.

The call is a harsh “fraaa” or “craa” ( or whatever which surely we can’t guess) croak.

The diet is the usual Heron diet – fish, molluscs, crustaceans.

~Arjun Basandrai

Grey Heron

(Ardea cinerea)(Adult in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur)

Size(80-100cm): It is a pretty large and handsome wader.

IMG_2215

(adult with crest visible)

Habitat: Lakes, ponds, jheels, marshes, river banks.

Area: All India till about 3900m in Ladakh.

IMG_0657

(adult in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur)

My two words: Grey heron is ash grey above with long, white neck. There is a black stripe over the eye which continues to become a large crest. The crown and underparts are all white. The iris is yellow.

IMG_1362

(Grey Heron with its long black crest)

They are generally solitary until the breeding time.

The nests are build on high trees where 3-5 bluish green eggs are laid. Both the parents taken to incubate the eggs for about 25-30 days.

One problem is that the juveniles die during their first winter and only a few are able to survive.

IMG_0637

(immature in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur)

The diet mainly comprises of fish, crustaceans and other molluscs.

~Arjun Basandrai

Herons (Ardeidae)

They are long-legged waders that are found in wetlands. The Ardeidae family with Herons also includes Bitterns and Egrets but here I am going to talk solely about Herons.

The main characteristics common in any species of Herons is that they have long legs and a long beak. They share many similarities with storks and cranes. The distinctive character that separates them from storks and cranes is that they fly with their necks drawn back instead of outstretched like it is in the case of storks and cranes.

They show very little sexual dimorphism in size as well as characters. They also have powder down which is seen in very less groups of birds. They can also curl their necks to form an S shape which they usually do during flight.

They are carnivorous and feed mainly on crustaceans, molluscs, fish and other insects. Before swallowing their prey, they usually manipulate it.

The largest member of this family is the Goliath Heron.

The other members which I am going to talk about in this section are as follows:

1.  Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

2. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)

3. Little Heron (Butorides striata)

4. Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)

5. Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)