Black Heron

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Black Heron
Black Heron canopy feeding
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
Species: E. ardesiaca
Binomial name
Egretta ardesiaca
(Wagler, 1827)
In Nungwi, Zanzibar
Black Herons canopy feeding east of Antananarivo, Madagascar

The Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) also known as the Black Egret, is an African heron. It is a medium-sized (42.5–66 cm in height), black-plumaged heron with yellow legs and feet. It is found south of the Sahara Desert, including Madagascar, and prefers shallow open waters, such as the edges of freshwater lakes and ponds. It may also be found in marshes, river edges, rice fields, and seasonally flooded grasslands. In coastal areas, it may be found feeding along tidal rivers and creeks, alkaline lakes, and tidal flats. Its breeding range is between Senegal and Sudan and to the south. It is found mainly on the eastern half of the continent. It has also been observed in Greece.

The Black Heron has an interesting hunting method called canopy feeding—it uses its wings like an umbrella, and uses the shade it creates to attract fish. This technique was well documented on episode 5 of the BBC's The Life of Birds. Some Black Herons feed solitarily, while others feed in groups of up to 50 individuals, 200 being the highest number reported. The Black Heron feeds by day but especially prefers the time around sunset. It roosts communally at night, and coastal flocks roost at high tide. The primary food of the Black Heron is small fish, but it will also eat aquatic insects, crustaceans and amphibians.

The nest of the Black Heron is constructed of twigs placed over water in trees, bushes, and reed beds, forming a solid structure. The heron nests at the beginning of the rainy season, in single or mixed-species colonies that may number in the hundreds. The eggs are dark blue and the clutch is two to four eggs.

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