One of our shier heron species, despite its impressive size, the Purple Heron inhabits densely vegetated shallow wetlands, reedbeds and riverbanks, seldom emerging into the open. They feed mainly on fish, frogs, small mammals and birds, and crabs and other aquatic invertebrates and is most active around dawn and dusk.
The Purple Heron forms monogamous pairs and usually nest in mixed colonies together with ibises, cormorants and other herons in reed beds and treed thickets. Both parents construct the flat platform nest using reeds and sticks and share the incubation duties for the clutch of 4-8 eggs over a 4-week period. They breed throughout the year, with a peak during the rainy season, and the chicks become independent when they’re about two months old.
Purple Herons measure around 85cm in length with a weight of approximately 870g, and is considered of least concern by the IUCN, which estimates their numbers at as many as half-a-million. Draining of their preferred wetland habitats and habitat destruction in other ways, is a threat to take note of. The species occurs widely over Europe, central and south Asia, the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa and in South Africa they are found in all our provinces, though only rarely so in the arid Northern Cape and dry Karoo regions.