Squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides)

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Squacco heron flapping wings
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Squacco heron fact file

Squacco heron description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCiconiiformes
FamilyArdeidae
GenusArdeola (1)

Named after its piercing ‘squawk’ call (2), the squacco heron is a small, chunky bird with a short, thick bill, warm buff-brown back and snowy white wings, breast, tail and belly. The long, almost hair-like feathers on the back cover the tail, and there are tufts of long white and black feathers on the head that sometimes stick straight up in the air (4). Juveniles have browner plumage on the head and back and have dark streaks on the throat and chest (5). The squacco heron’s highly-recognisable call is often given at night, especially during breeding (2).

Also known as
Common squacco heron.
French
Héron crabier.
Size
Length: 42 - 48 cm (2)
Weight : 230 – 370 g (2)
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Squacco heron biology

The squacco heron feeds mainly on larval insects, but can supplement its diet with small fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs and, under exceptional circumstances, even small birds. It prefers to feed alone or in small groups of two to five individuals, although during periods of food scarcity, such as during migration and in winter, groups of up to 20 feeding individuals can form (3). The squacco heron is mainly active at sunrise and sunset, sleeping during the day and night in large sheltered groups (3).

The squacco heron breeds from April to July in Europe and northern Africa (3), either in a single-species colony or in groups of up to 2,000 pairs alongside other species such as little egrets, cattle egrets, black-crowned night herons and grey herons (7). It builds its nests two to twenty metres above the water level in a tree or in dense scrub vegetation, laying three to four eggs at a time (3).

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Squacco heron range

The squacco heron occurs in Europe, Africa (including Madagascar) and the Middle East, as far east as Iran (2), breeding in the northern parts of its range and migrating to southern regions to spend the winter (2) (6).

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Squacco heron habitat

The squacco heron is a terrestrial bird that inhabits lakes, river valleys, swamps and other permanent or temporary freshwater wetlands. However, due to habitat alteration, rice paddy fields are becoming its main habitat (3). It prefers sites with abundant nearby vegetation, such as tamarisk, elm and ash trees, where it likes to build nests (7).

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Squacco heron status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Squacco heron threats

Due to its large range, the squacco heron is not currently considered a threatened species (1). However, in Europe numbers are declining (6), due to the loss of natural and artificial wetland habitat. Also, in Nigeria the species is hunted for use in traditional medicine (3).

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Squacco heron conservation

While there are no known conservation measures specifically focusing on the squacco heron currently in place, several organisations, suchas the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, are working to conserve wetland habitats around the world (8), which will benefit this species (2).

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To learn more about the conservation of wetlands see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Crustaceans
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Larval
Of the stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Molluscs
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Kushlan, J.A. and Hancock, J.A. (2005) Bird Families of the World: Herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. BirdLife International (March, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  4. Evans, A.H. (1900) Birds. MacMillan and Co, Cambridge.
  5. Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollum, P.A.D. (1993) Birds of Britain and Europe. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
  6. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford. Available at:
    http://www.bto.org/birdfacts
  7. Barbraud, C., Kayser, Y., Cohez, D., Gauthier-Clerc, M. and Hafner, H. (2004) Journal of Field Ornithology, 75(2): 172-175.
  8. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (November, 2009)
    http://www.wwt.org.uk
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Image credit

Squacco heron flapping wings  
Squacco heron flapping wings

© McPHOTO / StillPictures.com

Still Pictures Ltd.
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Tel: +44 (0) 1275 375 520
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