Purple heron

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Not to be confused with the reddish egret.

Purple heron
Adult from Nagarhole National Park
Purple Heron, captured from, Vasai Road, Maharashtra, India
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Ardea
Species: A. purpurea
Binomial name
Ardea purpurea
(Linnaeus, 1766)

The purple heron (Ardea purpurea) is a wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, spending winter in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia. It is a rare but regular wanderer north of its breeding range.


The purple heron is a large bird, 78–97 cm (31–38 in) in length with a standing height from 70 to 94 cm (28 to 37 in) and a 120–152 cm (47–60 in) wingspan.[2][3] However, it is slender for its size, weighing only 0.5–1.35 kg (1.1–3.0 lb).[4] It is somewhat smaller than the grey heron, from which it can be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. It has a narrower yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. The most similarly-coloured heron is the Goliath heron, which is considerably larger.


There are three or four subspecies:[5]


The purple heron breeds in colonies in reed beds or trees close to large lakes or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest.

It feeds in shallow water, spearing fish, frogs, insects, spiders, small birds, rodents, salamanders, and snakes. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. It tends to keep within reed beds more than the grey heron, and is often inconspicuous, despite its size.

It has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The long neck of the purple heron looks particularly snake-like, with more of an S-shape in flight. The call is a loud croaking "krek".

The purple heron is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden
In Dambulla Lake, Sri Lanka


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Ardea purpurea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Purple heron videos, photos and facts - Ardea purpurea". ARKive. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Ali, S. (1996). The Book of Indian Birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society. ISBN 978-0-19-563731-1. 
  4. ^ Dunning Jr., John B., ed. (1992). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5. 
  5. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2015). "IOC World Bird List (version 5.3)". doi:10.14344/IOC.ML.5.3. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  6. ^ "Ardea bournei split as a separate species". Ornitaxa. 

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