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Black-headed heron

Ardea melanocephala


The Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala) is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae, common throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. It is mainly resident but some west African birds move further north in the rainy season. This species usually breeds in the wet season in colonies in trees, reedbeds or cliffs. It builds a bulky stick nest and lays 2–4 eggs. It often feeds in shallow water, spearing fish, or frogs with its long, sharp bill. It will also hunt well away from water, taking large insects, small mammals, and birds. It will wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. The Black-headed Heron is a large bird, standing 85 cm tall, and it has a 150 cm wingspan. It is nearly as large as the Grey Heron, which it resembles in appearance, although it is generally darker. Its plumage is largely grey above, and paler grey below. It has a powerful dusky bill. The flight is slow, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The white underwing coverts are striking in flight.

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KarenL 9 years ago

Thanks Carol! We're back in the UK doing the rounds of friends & family so no time for spotting or posting! I have discovered a few CDs of old photos to go through though plus photo albums going back eons if I ever get round to scanning stuff!

CarolSnowMilne 9 years ago

Beautiful! The group missed you! Hope you are well. I love this bird! I am trying birds now too now that the insects and spiders are gone.

KarenL 9 years ago

Thanks for the correction Jake!

jake3 9 years ago

I do not think that this is a striated heron. Look instead at the black-headed heron ( Ardea melanocephala). The striated heron is much smaller, has a proportionally shorter neck, and a thinner bill. It is definitely a 'small heron', more like a black crowned night heron, for instance, than a grey heron.

Spotted by

Sundays River Valley Local Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Spotted on Mar 11, 2011
Submitted on Nov 11, 2011


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