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Capped Heron
Pilherodius pileatus

Pelecaniformes Order – Ardeidae Family

Length: 50-60 cm
Weight: 500-550 g

Slightly different from other herons by its colours, the Capped Heron is the Nature photographers’ dream!
Although widely distributed in the large range, this species is scarce and uncommon.

Adult male has pale plumage overall, except on the head.
Back, wings and tail are pale grey.
Underparts are creamy white.
In breeding plumage, wings, breast and neck are darker, washed buff. 

Head is conspicuous with black crown and greyish-white forehead. Some elongated feathers (2 or 3) are visible on the nape. These fine feathers of about 20 cm long are white.
The bare parts of the face are turquoise-blue at bill base, on the lores and the eye-ring. The long pointed bill is blue-grey at base with paler grey or yellowish tip. The lower mandible shows purplish central part.
These colours are duller outside the breeding season.
Eyes are pale brown. Legs and feet are pale blue-grey.

Capped Heron feeds mainly on very small fish, amphibians and aquatic insects and larvae, taken in shallow water or at water edge.

Capped Heron is uncommon, even scarce in the wide distribution. It is resident in the wet and freshwater habitats, but they are in low density.
This species is poorly known, but not threatened at this moment.

Fr: Héron coiffé
All : Kappenreiher
Esp : Garza Capirotada
Ital: Airone dal cappuccio
Nd: Kapreiger
Russe: Южноамериканская Кваква
Port: Garça-real

Photographe :

Marc Chrétien

Jean Michel Fenerole
Photos d’Oiseaux du monde

Otto Plantema
Trips around the world

Texte de Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

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

BIRDS OF VENEZUELA by Steven L. Hilty – Ed. Christopher Helm – ISBN: 0713664185  

THE HERON HANDBOOK by James Hancock and James Kushlan- CROOM HELM – IBSN: 0709937164

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)


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Summary cards


Female is similar but some observations give her blue-grey bill and bright blue lores and eye-ring. The bare parts are probably duller than in male. 
Juvenile has slightly streaked crown, and lacks the elongated feathers on the nape.

Capped Heron as numerous Ardeidae, utters honks, harsh sounds and brief croaks when flushed and during the displays.

Capped Heron frequents several types of wet habitats such as forested swamps, areas near streams, pools along rivers banks with mud, grass or rocks.
This species may be seen up to 400 metres of elevation in tropical rainforest, ricefields, wet grasslands and sand banks in river.   

Capped Heron performs some displays high in bare tree, stretching up the neck with fluffed feathers, and bowing several times while uttering soft “ca-huu, ca-huu, Ca-huu…” rising in the middle and descending at the end. 

Capped Heron flies with shallow wing beats, with retracted head and the long legs held beyond the tail.
The flight may appear heavy, but it is powerful.

The nesting behaviour of the Capped Heron is poorly known.
The nest is built relatively low in tree. It is typically made with sticks.
Observations from captive birds in Miami (US) give a clutch of 2-4 eggs. Incubation lasts about 26-27 days.
Chicks are covered in white down and fed by both parents.

The heron turns the head from side to side, watching for prey. Then, it crouches very slowly and holds the neck to catch the fish.  

Capped Heron usually feeds alone, but it may occasionally feed with other herons’ species in loose groups.
It frequently moves, flying off 100 metres or so to new feeding area.
This species is wary and quick to flush. It may be seen in small groups of up to 12 birds in swampy wooded areas, and they may roost in open bare trees.

Capped Heron is found in both Basins of Amazon and Orinoco. This species occurs from E Panama, eastwards through Guianas to E Brazil, and southwards through E Ecuador to S Bolivia and Paraguay. 

As other herons, the Capped Heron feeds mainly on fish, but very small fish less than 5 cm long. It also catches aquatic insects and amphibians.
It feeds by day, standing motionless in shallow water, or walking slowly along the water edge in ponds, streams and pools.
The prey is caught with the bill, sometimes impaled by jabbing.