Tuesday 21 May
Squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides)
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Squacco heron fact file
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Squacco heron description
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.
- Héron crabier. Top
- BirdLife International:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
- Kushlan, J.A. and Hancock, J.A. (2005) Bird Families of the World: Herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
BirdLife International (March, 2010)
- Evans, A.H. (1900) Birds. MacMillan and Co, Cambridge.
- Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollum, P.A.D. (1993) Birds of Britain and Europe. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford. Available at:
- Barbraud, C., Kayser, Y., Cohez, D., Gauthier-Clerc, M. and Hafner, H. (2004) Journal of Field Ornithology, 75(2): 172-175.
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (November, 2009)
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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).Top
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).Top
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).Top
Squacco heron status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
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).Top
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).Top
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