Black-headed Herons

Black-headed Herons

The Black-headed Herons (Ardea melanocephala) is a wading bird that is common throughout much of Africa south of the Sahara and Madagascar. It is mainly resident but some West African birds move further north in the rainy season.

Black-headed Herons In The Bush
Black-headed Herons In The Bush


The Black-headed Heron is a large bird, standing 85 cm tall, and it has a 150 cm wingspan. It is nearly as large as Grey Heron, which it resembles in appearance, although it is generally darker. Its plumage is largely grey above, and paler grey below. It has a powerful dusky bill.

The flight is slow, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The white underwing coverts are striking in flight.

Nesting / Breeding:

This species usually breeds in the wet season in colonies in trees, reedbeds or cliffs. It builds a bulky stick nest and lays 2-4 eggs.

Feeding / Diet:

It feeds in shallow water, spearing fish or frogs with its long, sharp bill. It will also hunt well away from water, also taking small mammals and birds. It will wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim.


The call is described as a loud croaking.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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