Pied heron

The pied heron (Egretta picata), also known as the pied egret[4] is a bird found in coastal and subcoastal areas of monsoonal northern Australia as well as some parts of Wallacea and New Guinea.

Pied heron
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
E. picata
Binomial name
Egretta picata
(Gould, 1845)[2]
Distribution. Green: year-round breeding, blue: nonbreeding.
  • Notophoyx aruensis
  • Ardea picata[3]


The species was originally described by ornithologist John Gould in 1845. Recent taxonomists put this species in the genus Egretta. There are no recognised subspecies.[5]


It is a small heron, 43–55 cm long, with dark slaty wings, body, and crested head, with a white throat and neck. The appearance is similar to the white-necked heron.[4] Males (247–280 g) are heavier than females (225–242 g), but the two are similar in appearance.[6]

Immature birds lack the crest as well as the dark colouring on the head and may look like small versions of the white-necked heron. The juveniles were once classified as a separate species.[6]

Distribution and habitat

Its habitat mainly comprises a range of wetlands and wet grasslands.



The call of the pied heron is a loud 'awk' or 'ohrk' in flight.[4] Soft cooing is given around the nest.[6] Little else is known about vocalisations.[6]


Breeding takes place from February to May.[4] It nests in trees above the water, including mangroves, often colonially with other species of heron. 1–2 blue-green eggs are laid in a shallow platform of sticks.[4]


It feeds on insects, frogs, crabs, fish and other small aquatic animals. Insects are the most important source of food.[6] It may feed alone or in groups of up to a thousand individuals.[6]


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Ardea picata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. BirdLife International (2008). "Ardea picata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 9 February 2009. Database entry includes justification for why the species is listed as least concern.
  3. BirdLife International (2006) Species factsheet: Ardea picata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3727 on 25/02/2010
  4. Pizzey, Graham; Knight, Frank (1997). Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Sydney, Australia: HarperCollinsPublishers. p. 111. ISBN 0-207-18013-X.
  5. "Pied Heron, Egretta picata, Taxonomy". Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  6. Kushlan, James Anthony; Hancock, James; Thelwell, David (2005). The Herons. Oxford University Press. p. 170. ISBN 0-19-854981-4.


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