Purple Heron

© Karl Svendsen


Purple heron (Ardea purpurea)

Purple Heron Appearance

The purple heron is a tall bird, standing around 85 m tall, but light for its size, weighing in at between 0.5 and 1 kgs. The purple heron has reddish-brown plumage, with a rusty coloured head and a streaky neck. The bill is narrow and yellow in colour. The purple heron has a black crown and a striped face. Yellow legs, the black facial markings and its size separate this heron from the Goliath heron.

Purple Heron Diet

The purple heron prefers dense vegetation and rarely hunts in the open.
The purple heron feeds mainly on fish but will feed on small mammals, insects, molluscs and juvenile birds. Small fish are swallowed head first. Larger prey is first killed on shore before being consumed. Small mammals and birds are often drowned by the heron, before being swallowed whole.

Purple Heron Breeding

During breeding, the purple heron's bill becomes brighter. The heron is monogamous and breeds in colonies known as heronries. The nest is built by both sexes, out of sticks and reed stems. Three to five eggs are laid and incubated for around 25 days by both parents. The chicks fledge at around 6 weeks.

Purple Heron Behaviour

The purple heron has a slow and regular flight, with the long neck pulled back in a snake-like ā€œSā€ shape. They are known for their ability to stand motionless for extended periods when hunting. The purple heron is active at dawn and dusk.

Purple Heron Distribution and Habitat

The purple heron is found throughout South Africa, except arid regions. They are found in shallow bodies of water with nearby dense vegetation.