Squacco Heron

© Karl Svendsen
Squacco heron in breeding plumage.

Name

Squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Appearance

The squacco heron is a small squat heron, 43 cm high, with 2 distinct looks, breeding and non-breeding. In the non-breeding phase, the plumage is brown with streaks on head and throat. The bill and legs are greenish to yellow in colour with the bill having a black tip.

In the breeding phase, the feathers become longer. The plumage is white with the breast and back a cinnamon colour. The bill also turns blue. The sexes are alike, in both breeding and none breeding plumage. The squacco heron displays all white wings while in flight.

Squacco Heron Diet

The squacco heron feeds on fish, crustaceans, frogs and aquatic insects.

Squacco Heron Breeding

The squacco heron is monogamous and breeds in colonies known as heronries. These are mixed communal nesting sites, shared with other species of herons. The nest is built out of sticks and normally at the start of the rainy season, around 2 m above the ground. Two to three eggs are laid and they are incubated by both parents. The chicks fledge around 45 days later.

Squacco Heron Behaviour

The squacco heron often feeds alone, standing motionless in the vegetation, on the water's edge. This heron will crouch horizontally while feeding, with only the head and neck showing from the vegetation.

Distribution and Habitat

The squacco heron is found in flooded freshwater wetlands and shorelines, that have dense vegetation. Found in the eastern half of South Africa and along the coast from KwaZulu-Natal to Cape Town.