White-Faced Heron – Profile | Traits | Facts | Call | Diet | Breeding

White-faced heron

The white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae also referred to as the white-fronted heron, and incorrectly because the gray heron or blue crane is a common bird all through most of Australasia, together with New Guinea, the islands of Torres Strait, Indonesia, New Zealand, and all however the driest areas of Australia.

White-faced heron Profile

The “Graak” call, additionally rendered “graaw”, is the species’ most common call, given in flight, in interactions, and aggressive encounters comparable to Supplanting Flights.

The “Gow” call, rendered “gow, gow, gow”, is given on return to the nest. The “Graak” call can be given upon approaching the nest.

A high-pitched “Wrank” call is an alarm call. An “Oo” call, rendered “ooooooh”, and “Arg” call, rendered “aaarrrgh”, is given as alarm calls together with when retreating.

A “Crock” call, rendered “crock, crock, crock, crock”, is utilized in the Stretch display. A high-pitched “Garik” call is a contact call.

White-faced herons happen all through Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand. They are a comparatively new species in New Zealand, having self-introduced within the Nineteen Forties.

From the Fifties onwards numbers have grown quickly and they’re now widespread all through the nation, together with the Chatham Islands.

It is primarily a bird of rocky shores and estuary mudflats, however will also be discovered close to the shallow edges of lakes as much as 500 m altitudes, and on-farm ponds.

Following rain, white-faced herons are sometimes seen in damp pastures and on sports activities fields, together with inside city areas.

White-faced herons have been recorded as vagrants on the Kermadec Islands, Snares Islands, Antipodes Island, Auckland Islands, and Campbell Island.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

It is a medium-sized heron, pale, barely bluish-grey, with yellow legs and white facial markings. It will be discovered virtually anyplace close to shallow water, contemporary or salt, and though it’s immediate to depart the scene on long, slow-beating wings if disturbed, it should boldly raid suburban fish ponds.

Female is smaller. Another variation in size and darkness has been described, which can be geographic. This commentary has led to the outline of a number of subspecies, novaehollandiae, and parryi from Australia, nana from New Caledonia, and austera from Irian Jaya.

Albinistic people happen. The extent and dispersion of variation within the species require further examination.

The White-faced Heron is extremely versatile and makes use of all kinds of habitats that include shallow water. Its incidence in an area usually relies on water situations.

Habitats used embody tidal mudflats, seagrass beds, mangroves, reefs, saltpans, saline lakes and lagoons, seashores, dunes, rocky shore, lakes, stream margins, natural ponds, billabongs, farm ponds, ditches, seasonally flooded grassland and pasture, and reservoirs.

It additionally makes use of drier sites comparable to pasture, golf programs, city parks, gardens, orchards, roadsides, and rubbish dumps. It happens as high as 1,700 m in West New Guinea.

The immature White-faced Heron is paler and duller than the adult, with brown-grey shading on the brow and sides of the head, making these options much less white than within the adult.

There is a slim pink buff throat line. The underparts are brown-grey. The chest is buff pink, without the chestnut of the adult. Immature birds lack lanceolate plumes on both their chest or back.

Chick is roofed with gray down.


White-faced heron Identification

The white-faced heron is a medium-sized heron with primarily blue-grey plumage. As the name suggests it has white on the face and the front of its neck.

The back is medium blue-grey with the chest and underside more brown-toned. Inbreeding plumage, white-faced herons have strap-like gray plumes on the back and shorter pinkish-brown plumes on the breast.

The dagger-like bill is darkish gray, boring yellow on the base, and the legs are pale yellow.

In-flight the white-faced heron normally tucks its head back in the direction of its shoulders within the characteristic heron posture, however, it should additionally fly with the neck outstretched.

Its open wings present the distinction between the pale gray fore-wing and darkish gray predominant flight feathers on each of the higher and lower surfaces. Immature birds lack a white face.

Distribution and habitat

The white-faced heron is discovered all through most of Australasia, together with New Guinea, the islands of Torres Strait, Indonesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, the islands of the Subantarctic, and all however the driest areas of Australia.

The species is now resident on Christmas Island however has not but been recorded breeding there. It can be generally discovered on Lombok, Flores, and Sumbawa, and has appeared as a vagrant in China, Cocos Islands, and the Solomon Islands.

It is usually a winter customer to the Northern Territory. It was self-introduced to New Zealand within the late Nineteen Forties. It is the one heron recorded breeding in Tasmania.

The white-faced heron is regionally nomadic and located in each contemporary and salty wetlands, farm dams, pastures, grasslands, crops, shores, saltmarsh, tidal mudflats, boat-harbors, seashores, golf programs, orchards, or in backyard fish ponds. It is protected in Australia under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

White-faced heron Description

The adult white-faced heron is medium-sized for the family and principally pale blue-grey. The brow, crown, chin, and higher throat are white.

The crown pattern is variable, with the white often spreading down the neck; the variability makes identification of people possible.

The iris could also be gray, green, boring yellow, or cinnamon. The areas between the attention and the bill on the side of the head (lores) are black. The beak is black and sometimes pale gray on the base.

During the breeding season, pinkish-brown or bronze nuptial plumes seem on the foredeck and breast, with blue-grey plumes showing on the back.

The adult usually weighs 550 g (1.21 lb) and ranges from 60 to 70 cm (24–28 in) in height.

Immature birds are paler gray with solely the throat white, and sometimes have a reddish color on the underparts. Chicks are usually lined with gray down.

The adult is mainly light blue-grey with a particular white head together with the brow, crown, side of the head, chin, and higher throat.

The crown pattern is variable with the white typically extending down the neck, the variability being ample to make recognition of individual birds possible.

Iris color is also variable, gray to green to boring yellow to cinnamon. The lores are grey-black. The bill is black with the lower bill tending to pale gray on the base.

It has pink-brown tones on shoulders and flanks. The chest has distinctive, long pale chestnut to bronze lanceolate plumes. Underparts are very light pale gray.

In-flight the wing seems barred, with lighter wing feathers contrasting with darker flight feathers and vanguard. The flight feathers have black suggestions. Grey lanceolate plumes happen on the back. The tail is darkish gray. The legs are green-yellow to orange-brown.

During the breeding season, plumes change into brighter, more quite a few, and more outstanding, gray on the back and chestnut on the chest. Lores turn gray black and leg pink-orange.

The white-faced heron usually perches on fence-posts, timber, phone poles, and home roofs. Its flight is sluggish and bouncing.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

White-faced heron Feeding

White-faced herons catch and eat a large range of prey, together with small fish, crabs, worms, bugs, spiders, mice, lizards, tadpoles, and frogs.

White-faced herons eat most small aquatic creatures and their diversified diet is fish, frogs, small reptiles, and bugs.

It makes use of a wide range of methods to search out meals together with standing nonetheless and ready for prey motion (usually using a peculiarly rhythmic neck motion whether or not in water or on land), strolling slowly in shallow water, wing flicking, foot raking and even chasing prey with open wings. White-faced herons usually feed solitarily or independently in small teams.

White-faced herons are usually territorial throughout the breeding season however could feed in teams throughout the non-breeding season, significantly after rain or flooding.

White-faced heron Foraging

White-faced Herons are lively diurnal feeders, though they’ve been reported as feeding at night as nicely. Typically, they forage principally by Walking slowly, Walking Quickly, or Standing, all in Upright or Crouched posture.

They use Walking slowly to stalk their prey in shallow water or on dry ground. They Walk Quickly on land, uncovered to mud or on the water’s edge. They break into Running, chasing after prey, usually extending and flapping wings to hop throughout the water.

Their route of motion is influenced by foraging situations, comparable to glare. They ceaselessly use Foot Stirring and Foot Raking in shallow water. Other behaviors seen are Head Tilting, Gleaning, and Wing Flicking.

White-faced Herons usually feed solitarily defending well-spaced territories, particularly through the nesting season. They additionally feed somewhat independently inside free small teams.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

They use Alert Posture upon disturbance. Aggressive interactions are the Forward display, Upright display, and Supplanting Flights.

In the Forward, birds increase the plumes on their chest and back and stroll in the direction of the intruder or walk-in parallel, a behavior that may grow to be birds doing parallel strutting runs.

In the Upright, the plumes usually are not raised. Supplanting can start with one bird working after one other or attacking from the flight, usually with a Graak call.

Bill Jabbing has been reported, flying into the air whereas doing so. The Crouch is used as a submissive posture. Although giant birds are in instances subject to harassment by different species and potential predators.

Although normally solitary, within the nonbreeding season and in terrestrial habitats they’ve been seen to feed in teams of dozens of birds, significantly after heavy rain or flooding.

They have ceaselessly been noticed in flocks of more than 50 foragings for bugs deep inside a tall lucerne crop, just about hidden by the foliage, and in a similar-sized flock, in company with Cattle Egrets, following a cultivator retrieving grubs it uncovered (M. Maddock pers. comm.).

When feeding outside the nesting season particularly in flocks, aggressive interactions are uncommon and so they seem to not defend their individual house.

They additionally feed commensally following different foraging birds comparable to ibises, cormorants, and spoonbills. They even defend their ‘beaters’.
white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane
Adult herons are more efficient than juveniles. Herons are inclined to feed on no matter what is most out there, and feeding depth and success fluctuate seasonally.

They ceaselessly roost at instances through the day on timber, rocky cliffs, or wetlands, significantly between tides. They additionally could alternate between terrestrial with aquatic feeding sites throughout the day.

They are recognized to roost at night with different colonial waterbirds comparable to egrets, ibis, and cormorants (M. Maddock pers. comm.).

White-faced Herons feed on all kinds of prey particularly fish, crustaceans, and terrestrial invertebrates. Prey gadgets seem to principally be small.

Recorded meals contain many species of fish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, worms, snails, amphipods, and bugs (mayflies, stoneflies, bugs, lacewings, orthopterans, beetle larvae, lepidopteran larvae, flies).

In New Zealand, they eat the launched Australian tree frog (Hyla). They eat flies at rubbish dumps, however beforehand accepted studies of this heron-eating carrion are actually doubted.

They could eat vegetable materials, however, this too wants additional research. Diet varies between the coast (aquatic invertebrates) and inland (fish and terrestrial invertebrates), and likewise seasonally (bugs in summer to earthworms in fall).

White-faced heron Behavior

Foraging white-faced herons stroll slowly with long, managed steps, looking forward to any indicators of prey, which is grabbed with lightning velocity.

When white-faced herons happen at high densities, e.g. on mudflats, aggressive shows could also be directed to different herons that strategy to close.

Roosting white-faced herons perch in timber or on top of artificial constructions comparable to road lights. They roost solitarily or often as pairs. During courtship and nesting, white-faced herons increase their plumes, and so they could carry out aerial shows close to the nest.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

White-faced heron Characters

The White-faced Heron is recognized by gray body color and white face. It is a slender and sleek bird with a particular flight, sluggish and deep with bowed wings making a sleek downbeat.

The neck is more ceaselessly seen prolonged when in flight than in most herons, probably as a result of it tends to move solely short distances when disturbed.

It is distinguished from the Grey Heron by its smaller size, white face, slenderness, and sleek look. It is distinguished from the darkish section of the Eastern Reef-Heron by its more slender bill, white face, and darker body, and barred underwing.

It is distinguished from the White Necked Heron by its white face (not total head and neck), white higher throat (without black throat spots), and light green to brown (not black) legs.

It is distinguished from juvenile Pied Herons by having a white face (however not head), darkish (not light to white) breast, and bicolor wings (without a white patch).


The most common call of the white-faced heron is a gravelly croak or gobble, graak or graaw and is often given in flight, in interactions, or in aggressive encounters.

Another call, gow, gow, gow is often given upon returning to a nest. High pitched wrank, oooooooooh or aaarrrgh calls are given as alarm calls.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

White-faced heron Breeding

White-faced herons are normally tree-top dwellers, favoring the tops of huge pine timber or macrocarpa rising close to water. They have additionally been recognized to nest on man-made constructions.

A free platform is built in the place the 3-5 eggs are incubated by each parent. There is normally just one nest per tree, however some breed in free colonies.

In northern areas, nesting begins as early as June however is later additional south. Laying peaks around October. Incubation takes about 26 days. It is uncommon for more than two chicks to be raised per brood.

Breeding usually takes place within the austral spring, however, the birds could breed at different instances in response to rainfall. Breeding usually takes place in southern Australia, and birds disperse for long distances at different instances of the year.

Both sexes share the duty of building the nest, incubating the eggs, and caring for the younger. The nest is an untidy shallow bowl, made from sticks and normally positioned on a leafy branch 5–12 m high, at altitudes from sea level to over 1000 m.

When breeding the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the neck, head, and back. A typical clutch has three to 5 pale blue eggs. with an average size of 48.5×35 mm. Normally just one brood is raised per year.

Incubation lasts roughly 25 days. The parents guard the chicks for 3–4 weeks and fledging takes place 40 days after hatching. Typical nestling predators embody kookaburras, Australian magpies, hawks, and owls.

white-faced heron, scientific name Egretta novaehollandiae , white-fronted heron, gray heron, blue crane

White-faced heron Migration

The species is greatest described as regionally nomadic. Birds frequently wander extensively, typically apparently for long distances, given their skill to colonize distant islands.

It additionally has regular seasonal actions. In New Zealand, herons move inland yearly in winter. In Australia, they move inland throughout nesting season to flooded wetlands after which move back to the coast post-breeding. Herons accumulate in moist areas throughout annual dry seasons and droughts.

Dispersal records happen all through a lot of Australasia into the Indian Ocean. It is often discovered in Lombok, Flores, Sumbawa. Other dispersal records embody Cocos-Keeling (Stokes et al. 1984), Tonga, Sulawesi, Kermadec, Aukland, Soloman, Campbell, Snares, and Macquarie Islands, and just lately as far north as Xiamen Island (China).


It is probably the most common and widespread heron in Australia and Tasmania. It has been rising its range in Australia and is now probably the most considerable heron in New Zealand.

The change in standing in New Zealand is spectacular. It was first reported there in 1868; first reported as a breeding species in 1941, and has elevated expansively because the Nineteen Sixties.

Although first established alongside the coast, it’s now discovered all through each predominant island.


The white-faced heron is certainly one of New Zealand’s commonest giant birds.

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