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Purple Heron  (Ardea purpurea) | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)

spanwidth min.: 110 cm

spanwidth max.: 145 cm

size min.: 79 cm

size max.: 90 cm


incubation min.: 25 days

incubation max.: 30 days

fledging min.: 45 days

fledging max.: 50 days

broods 1

eggs min.: 3

eggs max.: 7



Physical characteristics


its body is dark and elongated. Its head and neck are narrow and elongated. Its beak can be used as a harpoon to catch prey. The long paws allow the purple heron to reach the deepest water. The long and well-spaced fingers allow the purple heron to walk easily on marshy grounds and on water vegetation. Its typical stretching neck completes its beak, increasing the efficiency and the speed of the attack to prey. It can live up to 23 years.




De broedbiotoop van de Purperreiger bestaat uit moerassen met een dichte vegetatie van overjarig riet en verspreide opslag in de buurt van geschikte voedselgebieden (tot 20 km buiten de kolonie in moerassen, veenweidegebieden en polders). De nesten worden gebouwd in (water)rietvegetaties, op drijftilvegetaties, en in Nederland vooral in struweel of bomen. Het Nieuwkoopse Plassengebied vormt het belangrijkste broedgebied, en daarnaast zijn er kleinere kolonies in andere laagveenmoerassen. Na het broedseizoen maakt de soort tevens gebruik van aangrenzende gebieden, zoals de Biesbosch, het rivierengebied en delen van Zuidwest-Drenthe. Het voedsel bestaat voornamelijk uit vis, amfibieën en insicten, die in ondiep water worden gevangen.


Other details


This heron inhabits permanent swamps of southern Eurasia, Eastern and Southern Africa. European birds winter in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly in East Africa. In 1995 the population of the European Union amounted to 5200 breeding pairs (EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds), but following a long history of persecution and habitat destruction its distribution is strongly fragmented and reduced to a small number of breeding colonies. In several countries, including the Netherlands, the decline is continuing. Its seems also to be linked to a bad survival rate in the winter quarters




The Purple Heron feeds on fish, amphibians, insects (both grubs and adults), especially from sunset to sunrise. During wading keeping its beak very near the water and swallow with a rapid neck and head movement the fishes from the head, in order to make them easily pass through the oesophagus. Also feeds on amphibians, beetles, and molluscs; occasionally eating small mammals, snakes and lizards




This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 270,000-570,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]




The nest is usually build in reedbeds and in between plants typical of wet areas, generally close, at 0.5 -1 meter, from water. The nest also built on trees up to 25 meters from the ground, made of reeds and small branches. The purple herons usually lay 4-5 eggs with an incubation period of 25 to 30 days. The chicks fledge after 45 to 50 days. During courtship the males plumage is more bright, especially on the neck. The pairs bond at least for one season. Both parents take care of the chicks. They nest in small colonies, generally made up of two or three pairs bur also single. In central Europe eggs are laid at the end of April, or at the beginning of May, in the South of Europe three weeks later.




Marked post-breeding dispersal. W Palearctic birds migratory, wintering in Africa S of Sahara but N of Equator, especially in W Africa, a few in Mediterranean Basin, Middle East and Baluchistan, Pakistan; move S Aug-Oct, returning Mar-May, with some regularly overshooting into N and C Europe. Birds breeding in NE Asia migrate to Korea, S China, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. African and tropical Asian breeders sedentary, sometimes with local movements. Migration normally by day in small groups, but flocks of 350-400 birds in Turkey. Accidental to many islands of NE Atlantic, from Canaries to Iceland, also Brazil and Japan.


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Taken on April 25, 2015