Black Heron - Egretta ardesiaca

Length 1.4-2.2 ft (42.0-66.0 cm)
Wingspan 4.0 ft (121.9 cm)
Weight 9.5-13.8 oz (270-390 g)
Clutch Size 2-4
Chicks at birth Altricial
IUCN Conservation Status Least Concern

The Black Heron or Black Egret is an all-black bird that is found in Africa. They are medium-sized with a long black bill and a bushy crest on their head. Their legs are black and both their feet and irises are yellow. Both sexes are similar in appearance. Juveniles are also black but do not have the crest. Chicks are covered with a dark grey down and a white crest.

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Diet: Black Herons will search for fish, crustaceans and insects in shallow water and will sometimes feed in groups of up to 50 birds. They have a unique method of feeding called 'canopy feeding'. Canopy feeding is when the wings are spread up and forward to overlap in front of the bird creating something that looks like an umbrella. They can hold the canopy position for about 2 to 3 seconds and then they will return to a normal position. They will go back and forth between the different positions. It is supposedly quite a site to see flocks of Black Herons doing this canopy position in unison. They may do this to improve visibility by eliminating reflections, or to attract food to dark shelter formed by their wings. When they spot prey they will use their bill to jab it.

Courtship: During courtship their feet turn bright red. They may make a low clucking sound during the courtship ritual.

Nesting: Black Herons' nests are a platform of sticks and twigs that are located over water in trees or reed beds. They nest in large colonies of Black Herons and other bird species. The female lays 2-4 dark blue eggs. Like other egrets and herons, the chicks are altricial at birth. Some sources list Heron and Egret chicks as semi-altricial at bird, but I decided to go with Sibley and other sources I found on the web.

Habitat and Range: The Black Heron is found in sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar and are common in tropical parts of South Africa. Their numbers are dramatically decreasing in Madagascar but in parts of Africa they are abundant. Their habitat includes edges of inland and estuaries, mainly in higher rainfall regions. They are not found in forests and deserts.

Vocalization: They are mostly silent but they produce a harsh scream when defending nest.

Plumage/Molt: No information found yet.

Migration: Their migration status is still being debated. While some Black Herons are sedentary others may migrate or relocate in search of shallow water and food.

Tongue/feet: They have long toes and nails on their feet.


  • Maclean, Gordon Linday, Robert's Birds of Southern Africa,John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, 1985
  • Sibley, David Allen, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior,Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2001
  • The Free Encyclopedia, Accessed April, 2012
  • Heron Conservation, Accessed April, 2012

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