Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola Bacchus)

(47 cm.) Breeding season: Small heron; white wings; head, neck and breast dark brown; white underparts Winter: Heavily streaked brown heron; white with brown back in flight

The Chinese Pond Heron is one of a large family of mostly freshwater birds, “Ardeidae”, that includes many long-legged species such as herons, egrets and bitterns that stalk fish and other aquatic species in rivers, ponds, and lakes. All members of this family are closely related and share similar habits of living despite often being called “herons” or “egrets” or “bitterns”. All these birds are equipped with adaptations that allow them to be successful hunters in their watery habitats such as long necks and long sharp bills that they use to spear fish, frogs, lizards and other species of vertebrate and invertebrate prey.

Herons can easily be confused with other long-legged bird species such as cranes, ibises, and storks, but they do have generally sharper, more dagger-like bills, and in flight, herons pull their necks in towards their bodies, while these other birds fly with necks stretched out.

The Chinese Pond Heron, although large, is a medium-sized bird of its family. Some members of the family such as the Grey Heron is 92 cm. long. It is called a “pond heron”  due to its particular fondness for ponds as hunting grounds. In China, it is often found in the rice fields of the south.

The Chinese Pond Heron is a striking bird in the breeding season with a dark brown head and neck contrasting with its white breast and belly and blue back.

This bird will frequent both fresh and salt water ponds and wetlands. This species' diet consists of the fish, insects and crustaceans.

This species, like other herons, is a community nester in the breeding season. It forms loose colonies of nesting birds often including other species of herons. These community nesting places are often called, “heronries” The female Chinese Pond Heron usually lays a clutch of 3-6 blue-green eggs. The breeding range consists of the eastern half of China from approximately Jilin Province in the north to around Fujian Province in the south and extending westwards to Sichuan Province

Photo by Brian Westland

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