Purple Heron/Ardea purpurea - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Purple Heron/Ardea purpurea - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Purple Heron/Ardea purpurea - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Purple Heron/Ardea purpurea - Photographer: Qenan Maxhuni

L 70-90 cm (neck extended), WS 110-145 cm. Breeds in colonies at extensive, shallow swampy lakes with reedbeds. Forages in shallow water in gaps among reeds and along rivers, or more in open in wet meadows. Summer visitor (mostly Apr-Oct), wintering in tropical Africa. Feeds on fish, frogs, insects. Nests in reeds (often Europe) or trees.
IDENTIFICATION: Big, lanky heron, usually quite dark-looking in field. Main confusion risk is Grey Heron. Note the following differences: longer, more uniformly narrow bill (‘bayonet’ rather than ‘dagger’); narrower head (merges more into bill); wings in front view slightly bent at carpal, and hint of jerkiness in wingbeats; somewhat narrower neck, which in flight often forms more angular ‘neck keel’; longer toes, sometimes held more splayed and disarranged; slightly smaller size. - Adult: Head-sides and neck-sides reddish-brown, neck with distinct, thin black border. Back dark grey, wingcoverts uniform dark grey with purple-brown cast (most marked on male). - Juvenile/1st-winter: Head- and neck-sides, back and upperwings ochrebrown, upperparts mottled (feather centres dark, fringes ochre), dark margins along neck-side indistinct. - 1st-summer: Neck and back almost as adult, but wings still variegated brown (juv. feathers, now worn).
VOICE: In flight a gruff, monosyllabic ‘krrek’, like Grey Heron’s but shorter, straighter (not faintly disyllabic as Grey Heron’s) and ‘deader’, less resonant.

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