Purple Heron

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Common Name: Purple Heron
Scientific Name: Ardea purpurea

Size: 31 ½ - 35 ½ inches (80-90 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Asia and Africa; breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, wintering in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia.It is found in any type of shallow water (including seasonal pools) that has a dense fringe of reeds or other vegetation, though it prefers fresh to salt water.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 270,000 - 570,000. The main threat to this species in Europe is the loss of reed beds though direct elimination (to reduce sedimentation), agricultural encroachment, water management practices (e.g. drainage) and reed cane harvesting. It is protected by the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Diet: Fish, amphibians, lizards, invertebrates and insects; occasionally small mammals and birds. It is a passive feeder which remains motionless in its preferred habitat of dense vegetation, waiting for prey to approach.

Nesting: Purple Herons nest in small colonies, often with other heron species. Some may nest alone. Preferred nest sites are dense reedbeds and thick vegetation where they pull down the reeds to make a platform. In Singapore, they nest at the base of dense Mangrove Ferns (Acrostichum sp.). They also nest in trees on a platform of twigs. The males find and bring nesting materials to the females, who do the actual construction of the nest. 2-5 pale blue-green eggs are laid. Incubation takes about 25 days and the young fledge in about 3 months. Both parents feed and look after the young, who tug at their parents' bills to get them to regurgitate titbits. There is intense sibling rivalry and often the younger chicks starve to death. They breed at about 1 year of age, and may live up to 23 years. Purple Herons defend their feeding territory from each other by aggressively puffing out neck feathers and raising crests.

Cool Facts: This is a solitary, shy bird which can be difficult to see. One reason for their shyness could be because Grey Herons (Ardea cinera) often steal the Purple Herons' catch when they are hunting close to each other. Purple Herons become even more shy during breeding season, preferring to hunt near cover.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume II: Herons and Bitterns

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