Purple Heron – Profile | Facts | Call | Habitat | Range | Diet

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The purple heron, scientific name Ardea purpurea is a wide-ranging species of wading bird within the heron family, Ardeidae. The scientific title comes from Latin ardea “heron”, and purpureus, “coloured purple”. It breeds in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia.

Purple heron profile

In this article, I am going to talk about the Purple Heron profile, description, in flight, call, facts, range, reproduction, etc.

The Western Palearctic populations migrate between breeding and wintering habitats whereas the African and tropical-Asian populations are primarily sedentary, besides infrequent dispersive actions.

It is comparable in look to the extra widespread gray heron however is barely smaller, extra slender, and has darker plumage.

A purple heron can be a more evasive bird, favoring densely vegetated habitats close to water, significantly reed beds.

A purple heron hunts for a variety of prey together with fish, rodents, frogs, and bugs, both stalking them or standing ready in ambush.

Purple herons are colonial breeders and construct a cumbersome nest out of lifeless reeds or sticks near the water’ edge amongst reeds or in dense vegetation. About 5 bluish-green eggs are laid and are incubated by each bird.

The younger purple heron hatch about 4 weeks later and fledge six weeks after that.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature notes that the global population trend is downwards, largely due to the drainage of wetlands, however, assesses the purple heron’s conservation standing as being of “least concern”.

Purple heron Description

The purple heron is a big bird, 78–97 cm (31–38 in) in size with a standing peak from 70 to 94 cm (28 to 37 in) and a 120–152 cm (47–60 in) wingspan.

However, it’s slender for its measurement, weighing solely 0.5 to 1.35 kg (1.1 to 3.0 lb).

A purple heron is considerably smaller than the gray heron, from which it may be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, it’s darker gray again.

Adults have the brow and the crown of the top black, with a darkish stripe down the again of the neck that terminates in a slender, dangling crest.

This is shorter than the crest of the gray heron and doesn’t exceed 140 mm (5.5 in).

The sides of the top and the neck are buffish chestnut, with darkish streaks and features down both sides of the entire neck.

The mantle is oily brown and the higher scapular feathers are elongated however not the decrease ones. The remainder of the higher elements and the tail are brownish grays.

The entrance of the neck is paler than the edges and there are some elongated feathers on the base of the neck that is streaked with white, chestnut, and black.

The breast is chestnut brown, with some blackening on the facet, and the stomach and under-tail coverts are black.

The brownish-yellow beak is lengthy, straight, and highly effective, and is brighter in color in breeding adults. The iris is yellow and the legs are brown on the entrance and yellowish behind.

The name is a harsh “frarnk”, however is quieter and extra high-pitched than that of the gray heron.

It is mostly a much less noisy bird, although related guttural sounds are heard emanating from the heronry. It can be much less robust and seems considerably hollow-chested.

Its head and neck are extra slender and snake-like than the gray heron and its toes for much longer.

Unlike that bird, it typically adopts a posture with its neck extending obliquely, and even nestlings have a tendency to make use of this stance.

Distribution and migration

The purple heron has a principally Palaearctic distribution and breeds in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The range of the western race extends from southern Spain and North Africa eastwards throughout southern and jap Europe so far as Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan.

In Africa, the bird breeds in Senegal, down the east coast of Africa, and in Madagascar.

The eastern race extends from the Indian Subcontinent, eastwards to jap China and the Philippines, and northwards to the basins of the Amur River and the Ussuri River at about 49°N.

The southern race is restricted to Madagascar, and a small inhabitant of purple herons on the Cape Verde Islands is thought to be a separate race by some authorities.

Between August and October, birds of the western inhabitants migrate southwards to tropical Africa, returning northwards in March.

Purple herons typically overshoot their regular range on their return and are vagrants to northern Europe together with Britain.

The eastern inhabitants are basically residents, although some birds from the northern part of the range fly southwards to Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia. The African birds are residents.

Purple heron Food Habits

Purple herons feed primarily at dusk and dawn, generally through the day. They are inclined to hunt alone in closely vegetated shallow water.

They hunt by standing nonetheless or wading very slowly, then quickly placing prey and catching them inside their payments.

Their weight loss plan varies tremendously, however is primarily fish-based.

They catch small fish lower than 15 cm lengthy together with pike (Esox), ten-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius), carp (Cyrprinus carpio), gudgeon (Gobio gobio), and tench (Tinca tinca).

They may also be insectivores that feed on beetles, locusts, dragonflies, and true bugs.

They often eat amphibians, reminiscent of Iberian ribbed newt (Pleurodeles walti), plus molluscs, and crustaceans. They additionally eat small mammals, reminiscent of water-voles.

Purple heron Habitat

Purple herons stay at elevations from the sea stage and 1800 meters. They spend their winters and breeding seasons residing in shallow freshwater wetlands, in addition to some river edges, ponds, and swamps.

All habitats have appreciable reedbeds, the place reed grasses like Phragmites species and cattails (Typha) are current.

They have additionally been present in rice fields, brackish water lagoons, and round fig timber.

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Purple heron Behavior

It is a secretive bird, spending much less day trip within the open than the gray heron and tending to skulk in reed beds.

Its lengthy toes imply it may possibly stroll on floating vegetation, and it generally walks over bushes in the identical means, not making any try and grip the branches. It seldom perches in timber, preferring extra

It is most energetic at daybreak and nightfall, roosting with different birds in the course of the day and at evening, however growing its diurnal activity whereas rearing younger.

A purple heron feeds in shallow water, grabbing its prey with its highly effective beak.

It will typically wait immobile for prey, or slowly stalk its sufferer.

The purple heron often breeds in colonies however generally the nests are solitary.

The site chosen is mostly in reed beds, canebrakes, or low bushes near giant lakes or different intensive wetlands.

A purple heron builds a cumbersome nest of lifeless reeds, sticks, or no matter is on the market, carelessly pulling the fabric collectively.

Purple heron

Purple heron Eggs

The eggs are bluish-green, averaging 56 by 45 mm (2.20 by 1.77 in).

The clutch is often 4 or 5 eggs, with often seven or eight eggs being laid, although these giant clutches could have resulted from two females laying in the identical nest.

The eggs are laid at intervals of three days, and incubation could start with the primary egg, or begin when the clutch is full.


Both dad and mom share the incubation, which lasts between 24 and 28 days, and the care of the younger.

When an adult brings meals, its beak is dragged down by the chicks and it regurgitates meals from the crop onto the nest, or the younger could take meals instantly from the beak.

The younger fledge at about six weeks and become unbiased at two months. They then disperse broadly.

Purple heron in Flight

Purple Heron flies slowly with retracted neck and longs legs and toes projected behind. Its flight is highly effective and common, with gradual wing beats.

The flight is gradual, with the neck retracted and the legs extending a great distance behind the tail.

This is an attribute of herons and bitterns and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which lengthen their necks in flight.

Purple heron Lifespan/Longevity

Purple herons can stay as much as a maximum of 25.4 years within the wild. In their first migration, a couple of halves (62%) of the juvenile inhabitants won’t survive.

For those that do survive their first yr, the most important explanation for demise is because of being hunted. They usually are not stored in captivity.

Communication and Perception

Purple herons have a wide range of shows by which they use motion to speak with each other.

Aggressive shows embrace placing on the enemy with a squawk or attacking each other over a heronry.

They have been proven to show alert postures, by which they stand immobile with eyes mounted on an invader.

Their greeting and breeding shows are fairly related, if not the same. Purple herons may even exert a low guttural greeting name when returning to the nest, and a higher-pitched model when leaving.

Their calls are described as a croak and the sound most related is “krek!” These calls have been characterized as just like gray herons.


Documented avian predators of purple heron chicks and eggs embrace African marsh harriers (Circus ranivorus), and sometimes black crakes (Amaurornis flavirostra).

Purple herons are also preyed on by mammalian predators reminiscent of clawless otters (Aonyx capensis), if water surrounding nests evaporates too rapidly. Additional predators might embrace snakes, rats, and foxes.

During the nesting season, purple herons will alter the peak of their nest relying on the encircling water levels.

This technique is designed to lower probabilities of nest predation. The coloration of hatchlings and adults is cryptic.


Purple Heron nests typically in small colonies, in dense reedbeds in shallow water, at about one meter above water. They can also nest greater in timber.

The bulky nest is a platform made with reeds or twigs. Male brings supplies to feminine which builds the nest.

Other supplementary nests could also be built near the first, utilized by the other adult whereas one is incubating, and by young, when they depart the nest, remaining within the almost branches earlier than fledging. The nest may be very giant.

The female lays 2 to five pale blue-green eggs. Incubation lasts about 25 to 30 days, by each parent.

Young are protected and fed by each adult which regurgitate meals instantly into the bill or within the nest.

The youngest bird typically dies, attributable to the intense rivalry between chicks.

They depart the nest at about 10 days after hatching, remaining close by branches or hidden in the dense reedbed.

Young fledge at about three months after hatching, they usually attain their sexual maturity at one year.

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