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Purple Heron
Ardea purpurea

Pelecaniformes Order – Ardéidae Family

BIOMETRICS :
Length: 78-90 cm
Wingspan: 120-150 cm
Weight: 525-1345 g

DESCRIPTION:
Purple Heron has purple-brown plumage with slate-grey wings, reddish-brown breast, black belly and reddish-purple flanks and scapulars.

DIET:
Purple Heron feeds on fishes, frogs, invertebrates, reptiles, small rodents and small birds.

PROTECTION / THREATS / STATUS:
Populations of Purple Herons are affected by habitat loss and water pollution. They are also disturbed in colonies, and it may occur illegal shooting.   

Fr : Héron pourpré
All : Purpurreiher-purpurea
Esp : Garza Imperial
Ital: Airone rosso
Nd: Purperreiger
Russe: Рыжая цапля
Sd: Purpurhäger

Photographers:

Aurélien Audevard
OUESSANT DIGISCOPING

Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Paul Guillet
Photos d’Oiseaux

Jean Marc Rabby
Des Ailes et des Plumes

Yves Thonnérieux
NATUR’AILES

Callie de Wet
Flickr Galleries

Text by Nicole Bouglouan 

Sources:

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

THE HANDBOOK OF BIRD IDENTIFICATION FOR EUROPE AND THE WESTERN PALEARCTIC by Mark Beaman, Steve Madge - C.Helm - ISBN: 0713639601

BIRDS OF THE GAMBIA AND SENEGAL by Clive Barlow and Tim Wacher – Helm Field guides – ISBN: 0713675497

BIRDS OF THE MIDDLE EAST by R.F. Porter, S. Christensen, P Schiermacker-Ansen C.Helm - ISBN: 0713670169

L’ENCYCLOPEDIE MONDIALE DES OISEAUX - Dr Christopher M. Perrins -  BORDAS - ISBN: 2040185607

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

 

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Summary cards

 

Crown and long feathers’ crest are black. Rear neck is pale reddish-brown. The rest of the neck is white with black streaks, extending on upper breast. A black line is running down the neck sides.

Long pointed bill is yellow and longer than in other herons. Eyes are pale yellow.
Legs and feet are orange yellow. Purple Heron has longer toes than other species, allowing walking on floating vegetation and dense bushes. Very conspicuous in flight, these long toes make easier to identify the species.

In breeding plumage, both similar adults have long breast feathers.  

Juvenile is browner than adults, lacking crest and breast feathers, and showing duller and narrow steaks in neck and underparts. 

We find three subspecies which differ in extent of black streaks on the neck.

VOICE: SOUNDS BY XENO-CANTO
Purple Heron is usually silent. While flying, its call is similar to Grey Heron, but higher-pitched. We can also hear a loud resonant “krank”, and a “kar-kar-kar” at nest and when takes off.

HABITAT:
Purple Heron breeds in marshes and lakes with extensive reedbeds. Outside breeding season, they prefer more open wetlands with fringing vegetation.
Geographical variations are moderate, and breeding birds seem to be established in some parts of their range.  

RANGE:
Purple Heron breeds from tropics to mid-temperate countries. We can find them throughout Europe, Southern Asia and Africa. European birds winter in tropical Africa.

BEHAVIOUR:
Purple Heron feeds in shallow water, waiting motionless for prey, stalking slowly fishes and frogs, or spearing them with its long pointed powerful bill. They feed in freshwater wetlands.

Purple Heron remain in reedbeds more than Grey Heron. It is a shy and solitary hunter, mostly at night to the early morning. It waits for prey under the cover, rarely wading in deep water, and sometimes, it perches on low trees and bushes above water, searching for food.
They roost mostly in coastal areas, such as mangroves and estuaries.

Purple Heron may be harassed by Grey Heron which steals its prey when they are hunting close to each other.
Purple Heron defends strongly its territory, puffing out its neck feathers and raising its crest.

During breeding season, Purple Heron has brighter colours and more pendulous breast feathers. Courtship displays show the Heron in elaborate postures, with fluffed out neck feathers. Male and female point their bills upwards, with straight head and neck.

FLIGHT:
Purple Heron flies slowly with retracted neck, and longs legs and toes projected behind. Its flight is powerful and regular, with slow wing beats.

REPRODUCTION:
Purple Heron nests generally in small colonies, in dense reedbeds in shallow water, at about one metre above water. They may also nest higher in trees.
The bulky nest is a platform made with reeds or twigs. Male brings materials to female which builds the nest. Other supplementary nests may be built close to the first, used by the other adult while one is incubating, and by young when they leave the nest, remaining in the nearly branches before fledging. The nest is very large.

Female lays 2 to 5 pale blue-green eggs. Incubation lasts about 25 to 30 days, by both parents. Young are protected and fed by both adults which regurgitate food directly into the bill or in the nest. The youngest bird often dies, due to intense rivalry between chicks. They leave the nest at about 10 days after hatching, remaining in nearby branches or hidden in dense reedbed.
Young fledge at about 3 months after hatching, and they reach their sexual maturity at one year.

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