The Western reef heron, scientific name Egretta gularis additionally referred to as the western reef egret, is a medium-sized heron present in southern Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.
Western reef heron Overview
It has a primarily coastal distribution and happens in a number of plumage kinds: a slaty-grey plumage during which it may well solely be confused with the fairly unusual darkish morph of the Little egret (Egretta garzetta); a white kind which may look similar to the little egret through the bill tends to be paler and bigger and the black kind with white throat E. g. gularis of West Africa.
There are additional variations in size, construction, and foraging behavior. There have been ideas that the species hybridizes with the Little Egret, and primarily based on this, some authors treat schistacea and gularis as subspecies of Egretta garzetta.
Works that contemplate the Western Reef Heron as a legitimate species embrace the nominate gularis and schistacea as subspecies.
Western reef heron Distribution and standing
It happens primarily on the coasts in tropical west Africa, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf (Iran) extending east to India. It additionally happens within the Lakshadweep Islands and Sri Lanka the place breeding was as soon as recorded at Chilaw.
They nominate subspecies breeds in west Africa from Mauritania to Gabon. Birds may be discovered off the mainland resembling within the Canary Islands. Small numbers breed in Spain.
Subspecies schistacea is discovered from the Red Sea coast east around the Indian coast. Breeding colonies are identified from the east coast of India around Pulicat Lake. They often happen additional inland.
The western reef heron (nominate subspecies) happens as a vagrant in North America, South America, and the Caribbean islands. Based on the rising variety of records it’s suspected that they could set up breeding colonies in Brazil.
Several records around 1980–90 in Germany, Austria, and France have been attributed to birds that escaped from an animal supplier in Mittelfranken.
Western reef heron Description
This bird has two plumage color kinds. There is an all-white morph and a darkish gray morph; morphs can even happen with intermediate shades of gray which can be associated with age or particolored in gray and white.
The white morph is comparable basically look to the little egret, however, has a bigger yellower bill, prolonged yellow on thicker legs, and when foraging tends to be very lively, typically additionally transferring its wing or utilizing it to shade the water floor.
The gray morph has a whitish throat and is unlikely to be confused with another species inside the range of this egret with beak and legs much like that of the white morph.
During the breeding season, the legs and facial skin are reddish. Breeding birds have two long feathers on the sides of the nape. The nominate subspecies gularis has a range from West Africa to Gabon, with some birds breeding in southern Europe.
Subspecies schistacea breeds from the Persian Gulf alongside the coast of India to the east of the Indian Peninsula. The bill of gularis is more pointed whereas schistacea has the bigger bill particularly in direction of the bottom.
The kind on the eastern coast of South Africa is normally separated because of the dimorphic egret Egretta dimorpha. The darkish and white morph is regarded as managed by a single allele with the darkish character being incompletely dominant over the gene for white.
Western reef heron Behavior
These birds stalk their prey in shallow water, usually operating or stirring the water with their feet or flicking their wings to disturb prey; they could additionally stand nonetheless and wait to ambush prey.
They eat fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. In coastal areas, they recurrently feed on mudskippers. Laboratory research presents them to be able to make corrections for refractions however the chance of lacking will increase when they’re pressured to strike at prey at very acute angles to the water floor.
Like different herons and egrets they’ve few vocalizations, making a low kwok or grating sounds when disturbed or close to the nest.
Western reef heron Breeding
The western reef heron’s breeding habitat is coastal wetlands. In the Red Sea area, the breeding season is from June to August. They nominate subspecies breeds in West Africa from late April to September.
In India, the breeding season is in the course of the monsoon rains from April to August and the end of May within the former breeding colony at Chilaw in Sri Lanka.
Most of the breeding colonies in Gujarat in western India had been on mangroves. They nest in colonies normally of their very own species however typically with different egrets and smaller herons, normally on platforms of sticks positioned in bushes or shrubs.
The male fetches sticks of the nest whereas the feminine locations them to kind the platform. The nest height varies from about 5 to fifteen meters, however, very low nesting (as little as 0.6 meters) has been noticed in mangrove bushes in salt pans.
The typical clutch is three to 4 eggs that are light blue as within the little egret. Incubation begins when the first egg is laid leading to chicks with size disparities. Both parents take turns to incubate and the eggs hatch after about 23 to 24 days.
The chicks are white with gray dapples. Young birds typically die after falling off from the nest platform. Adults will shade the chicks in the course of the hotter components of the day.
Predators of eggs embrace rats and younger chicks could also be taken by cats and crows. Adults normally guard the nest when eggs or younger chicks are present.
Adults feed the younger by regurgitating semi-digested meals on the nest. This diet contains primarily small fishes of the households Clupeidae, Gobiidae, and Engraulidae. The younger birds go away from the nest after a couple of months.
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