Black-headed Heron

Ardea melanocephala

Unlike most other herons, the Black-headed Heron isn’t closely associated with water, and they are mostly seen stalking grasslands, scrublands and cultivated fields and only infrequently in marshes or next to waterbodies, for prey that ranges from insects to mammals, reptiles and birds the size of doves.

Black-headed Herons stand about 90cm tall with a wingspan of 1.5m and weigh around 1½ kilograms.

Pairs are monogamous and nest colonially (up to 200 pairs) with other herons of their own kind or in mixed-species congregations with herons, ibises and cormorants. Nests are large platforms built of sticks in high trees, reedbeds or cliffs, in which clutches of 2 to 4 eggs are incubated. In South Africa breeding has been recorded throughout the year, with a peak in the summer months.

Black-headed Herons are commonly encountered over most of South Africa, even in suburban parks, open plots and road verges in cities and towns. It is also common over most of Sub-Saharan Africa and the IUCN considers it to be of Least Concern with an increasing population, benefiting from the clearing of land for agricultural enterprises .

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20 thoughts on “Black-headed Heron

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Oh definitely, Terry! Just the fact that it isn’t as closely reliant on water as other species of its kin makes the black-headed heron an interesting subject.

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  1. kim blades, writer

    We have a pair of these in the small wildlife reserve near where I live. We only see them is summer though when the stream in the reserve is flowing well. I haven’t seen them there for a few weeks, they must have flown off a wetter area.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Following the good rains of late there must be loads of food in their prefered grassland habitats nearby, Kim. You may just see them somewhere on a road verge someday soon!

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