Black-headed Heron

Ardea melanocephala - Héron mélanocéphale

Systematics
  • Order 
    :

    Pelecaniformes

  • Family
    :

    Ardéidés

  • Genus
    :

    Ardea

  • Species
    :

    melanocephala

Descriptor

Children Vigors, 1826

Biometrics
  • Size
    : 96 cm
  • Wingspan
    : 150 à 160 cm.
  • Weight
    :
Geographic range

Distribution

Description identification

Héron mélanocéphale
adult
Héron mélanocéphale
juvenile

Overall, the Black-headed Heron appears almost uniformly grey but of varying intensity, from very dark to light. The throat is white, contrasting with the cap and the back of the neck. The lightest individuals can be confused with the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) but always stand out due to the strong contrast of the underside of the wings which resembles that of White Storks (Ciconia ciconia), with black and white. The darkest ones look quite similar to the Slate-colored Egret (Egretta ardesiaca) but are distinguished by a much larger size and the absence of plumes behind the head. The young have a grey neck and head. They are differentiated from young Grey Herons by their dark flanks and legs. They have dark auricular areas and the underside of the wings.

Subspecific information monotypic species

Foreign names

  • Héron mélanocéphale,
  • Garza cabecinegra,
  • garça-de-cabeça-preta,
  • Schwarzhalsreiher,
  • feketenyakú gém,
  • Zwartkopreiger,
  • Airone testanera,
  • svarthuvad häger,
  • Svarthodehegre,
  • volavka čiernohlavá,
  • volavka africká,
  • Sorthovedet Hejre,
  • kobolttihaikara,
  • Swartkopreier,
  • bernat capnegre,
  • Hettuhegri,
  • czapla czarnogłowa,
  • melnkakla gārnis,
  • črnoglava čaplja,
  • Черношейная цапля,
  • ズグロアオサギ,
  • 黑头鹭,
  • 黑頭鷺,

Voice song and cries

Héron mélanocéphale
adult

Outside the colonies, its usual call is a loud and discordant kuark.

Habitat

Héron mélanocéphale
adult

The Black-headed Heron is a bird of open habitats, particularly cultivated areas (pastures and grasslands). It is only dependent on water for breeding. It has adapted to suburban areas and can look for food on the side of roads. It is a Sub-Saharan species that has been observed in North Africa from time to time. It also lives in Madagascar. It has been seen three times in France (twice in the 19th century and once in the 20th century).

Behaviour character trait

Héron mélanocéphale
adult


The Black-headed Heron is mainly sedentary as an adult, although some movements may occur towards areas moistened by rain.

Héron mélanocéphale
adult
Young birds, when dispersing, can travel several hundred kilometres.
It is a colonial bird during the breeding season and it is even aggressive towards its own kind when visiting food sites.
It feeds in shallow waters, looking for prey which it stabs with its long, pointed beak. But it also hunts for small mammals such as rodents, and birds, in cultivated areas. It waits for its prey completely motionless, or walking slowly in order to better track it down.

Flight

Héron mélanocéphale
adult

The flight of the Black-headed Heron resembles that of a Grey Heron, wide slow movements and retracted neck. Acrobatic figures are observed when the bird descends to land.

Dietfeeding habits

Héron mélanocéphale
immature

Given its preferred habitat, the Black-headed Heron mainly feeds on small terrestrial animals (rodents, lizards, birds, snakes, etc.), insects (grasshoppers and beetles), but also frogs, crabs and fish which are also on its menu, as well as carrion and even some household rubbish!

Reproduction nesting

Héron mélanocéphale
adult

To reproduce, the Black-headed Heron needs large trees with their feet in the water or growing on islets as much as possible.

It then competes with the Grey Heron, which, as an earlier nester, has settled in the best spots. The species forms colonies, sometimes with other species such as the White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus) or the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). The nest is bulky and made of branches of wood. The laying is from 2 to 6 cream-colored eggs, incubated for a little less than a month. The young leave the nest between the 40th and 55th days but only become independent a few days later. As with many herons, they wander through the trees of the colony long before they can fly and do not hesitate to take younger ones from the neighboring nests.

Geographic range

Threats - protection

Héron mélanocéphale
adult
IUCN conservation status
Extinct
Threatened
Least
concern
Extinc
in the Wild
Near
threatened
Not
evaluated
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC NE

In South Africa, this species has seen an expansion due to increased cultivation and the creation of many water reservoirs. The Black-headed Heron is sensitive to poisoned bait laid by some farmers in order to get rid of predators.

Sources of information

Other sources of interest

QRcode Héron mélanocéphaleSpecification sheet created on 29/07/2023 by
Translation by AI Oiseaux.net
published: - Updated: 25-01-2009
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