Indian pond-heron (Ardeola grayii)

Also known as: Indian pond heron
GenusArdeola (1)
SizeLength: 40 - 45 cm (2)
Wingspan: 72 - 90 cm (2)
Weight230 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Indian pond-heron is an elegant bird with white-grey plumage, a brown stripe on its back, and a yellow beak with a black tip (4). Fascinatingly, its legs change colour in the breeding season, turning from green to bright yellow during the months of March to September (5). Some individuals even have red legs; a feature which has been reported in about two percent of the population in southern and western India (6). Most of the time the Indian pond-heron is very quiet, but it can omit a harsh croak (7).

The Indian pond-heron has a very large range, being found across most of the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar and Nepal (1). It ranges from Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the Maldives in the west, to Thailand and Vietnam in the east (1). The Indian pond-heron is also occasionally seen in the Seychelles, but has become extinct in Kuwait (1).

This bird can be found in a wide variety of habitats including rivers, lakes, marshes, mangroves, streams and paddy fields. It is also found in highly urbanized and populated areas, for example Indian pond-heron nests have been found in towns and cities (1). It prefers to live in lowlands but may also be found at higher altitudes, such as in the Nilgiri Hills in southern India which lie 2,150 metres above sea level (2).

The varied diet of the Indian pond-heron includes small fish, frogs, crabs, other crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, and baby turtles (2), and it may also consume substantial amounts of plant matter. It is a stealthy hunter, stalking its prey by walking slowly toward it or by standing still, awaiting the chance to ambush (2) (8), and it has also been recorded capturing its prey when in flight. The Indian pond-heron feeds during both the day and night, either alone or in small loose flocks (2).

The breeding season of the Indian pond-heron typically takes place from May to September, but falls between November and February in southern India and Sri Lanka (2). It usually breeds in small groups of the same species, but may sometimes be found breeding in groups with other heron species and cormorants (2). Individuals usually return to the same breeding colonies year after year, where they nest in trees between 2 and 16 metres above the ground (2). The females lay four eggs, which are incubated for a period of 24 days (2).

The Indian pond-heron is an abundant species throughout most of its range and is not considered to be globally threatened. A population count in India in 1990 estimated 15,340 individuals (2). However, there are some reports of threats to the Indian pond heron’s habitat; for example, wetland habitat in Kakinada on the east coast of India is being damaged as a result of the rapid growth of industries in the area (3). Fortunately, since the pond-heron has such a large range and has adapted well to breeding and feeding in human-dominated habitats, such as near urban areas, this does not threaten the survival of the species as a whole (8).

Due to its abundance in and around India, as well as the few threats it faces (2), little conservation work has been focused on the Indian pond-heron (1). However, despite being such a widespread bird, relatively few studies have been undertaken on this species’ biology (8). Further studies would help inform conservation measures should they ever need to be implemented.

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  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
  3. Bhaskar, B.V.S. (2009) Bird Habitat Faces Threat. The Hindu, Online Edition.  
  4. Grimmet, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. (1998) Birds of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher Helm, London.
  5. Hancock, J. and Kushlan, J.A. (1984) The Heron’s Handbook. Croom Helm, London.
  6. Sundar, K.S.G. (2004) Abundance and seasonality of Indian Pond Herons Ardeola grayii with red legs in Uttar Pradesh, India. Forktail, 20: 131-132.
  7. Mittal, S. (2009) Birds of Bangalore 2. Citizen Matters, Bangalore.
  8. Kushlan, J.A. and Hancock, J.A. (2005) The Herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.