Australian herons

Pied Heron

Egretta picata

The Pied Heron is only found across northern Australia, mainly in freshwater swamps, billabongs, dumps and sewerage ponds.

It feeds on insects, fish and frogs which are snatched while flying over the water; it will also scavenge at dumps and picnic areas.

Pied Herons breed in January to April. The nest is built low in a tree, alone or communally near water mainly in mangroves. 


White-necked Heron

Ardea pacifica

The White-necked Heron are found mainly in fresh water wetlands, including farm dams, flooded pastures, claypans, and even roadside ditches throughout mainland Australia.

They wade through shallow water or stalking through wet grass looking for fish, amphibians, crustaceans and insects.

Although White-necked Herons breeding season is mainly between September and December, they may breed in any month of the year in response to good rain. Male and female share the duties and build a loose platform nest in a living tree near or over water. The nests may be solitary or in loose colonies. Incubation and raising of the chicks are also shared by both parents.


White-faced Heron

Egretta novaehollandiae

White-faced Herons are found throughout Australia in many different wetland habitats such as reefs, in rock pools and mudflats by the coast, in estuaries and saltmarsh, swamps, rivers, drains and at farm dams; they even occur in pasture and hypersaline wetlands.

The White-faced Heron feeds on a wide variety of prey, including fish, insects and amphibians. Food is obtained in a variety of ways, such as walking and disturbing prey, searching among damp crevices or simply standing in the water and watching for movement.

White-faced Herons share the building of the nest and the raising of their chicks. They breed in response to rainfall; the nest is an untidy structure of sticks, placed in a tree.

Striated Heron

Butorides striata

The Striated Heron lives quietly among the mangrove forests, mudflats, around marinas and boat ramps and oyster-beds of eastern, northern and north-western Australia. It will search for fish, crabs, as well as molluscs and other marine invertebrates in the soft mud among the mangrove roots. When foraging, The Striated Heron usually adopt a hunched posture, with the head and neck drawn back into the bird’s body, while keeping the bill held horizontally, parallel to the surface of the mud waiting for prey to emerge before stabbing it with its sharp bill.

Male and female share the house work; they build a rough, flimsy stick platform nest about 3 m to 9 m over water in mangroves and after the eggs are laid both share the incubation and care of their young. Two broods may be raised in a season.

 Nankeen Night-Heron

Nycticorax caledonicus  

The Nankeen Night-Heron is found throughout eastern and northern Australia, as well as in the western half of Western Australia wherever there is permanent water. They roost in the daylight hours among dense foliage. Emerging at twilight they feed on a wide variety of insects, crustaceans, fish and amphibians in well-vegetated wetlands, along shallow river margins, mangroves, floodplains, swamps, and parks and gardens at night.

The Nankeen Night-Heron breeds in large colonies, the largest of which are in the Murray–Darling Basin. Their numbers may build up quickly during wet years, and disperse when conditions deteriorate. Male and female share the duties of building the nest and raising of their chicks.