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Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: _the_WP15.xls.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Behaviour The movements of this species are little known (Hockey et al. 2005, Kushlan and Hancock 2005), although it is thought to be sedentary, sometimes making local movements in response to seasonal rainfall and the appearance of temporary shallow-water feeding areas (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). The species breeds at the start of the rainy season and in periods of flooding when shallow feeding sites develop (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). It typically breeds in densities of 5 to 50 or up to 100 nests scattered throughout a single- or mixed-species colony. Exceptionally larger breeding colonies are observed, for example 1,500 nests were recorded at Chagana, Tanzania, and huge monospecific colonies used to form in Madagascar (over 10,000 birds where recorded at Antananarivo in 1949/50) although this no longer seems to occur (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When feeding the species may remain solitary and defend territories, or it may form feeding flocks of 5-50 individuals or more (Brown et al 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005) (a flock of 250 was recorded at Benamba Lake, Madagascar) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It feeds diurnally (Brown et al 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992), particularly at dusk (del Hoyo et al. 1992), and roosts communally in trees or reedbeds in both monospecific and mixed-species groups (Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat The species mainly inhabits lowlands, but occurs up to 1,500 m in the High Plateau Region of Madagascar (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It shows a preference for shallow, perennial (Hockey et al. 2005) freshwater habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1992) such as shallow lakesides (Brown et al 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005), dams (Hockey et al. 2005), ponds, flood-plains, rice-paddies (del Hoyo et al. 1992), marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005), swamps (Brown et al 1982), seasonally flooded grasslands and the edges of rivers (Brown et al 1982, Hockey et al. 2005). It can also found on alkaline lakes (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and in estuarine waters (Hockey et al. 2005) including mangroves, tidal mudflats (Brown et al 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005) and tidal creeks (Hancock and Kushlan 1984), although when in such habitats it remains near freshwater inlets (Brown et al 1982). Diet The diet of this species consists predominantly of fish, but crustaceans and aquatic insects are also taken (Brown et al 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Breeding site The nest is a solid platform constructed of sticks and twigs, usually between 1 and 6 m (Brown et al 1982) high in trees, bushes or reedbeds, and always near or over water (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005).

The greatest threats to this species in Africa are human disturbance and avian predation at nest sites, as well as threats to the aquatic habitats on which the species depends (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). It is highly threatened in Madagascar due to human interference at breeding sites (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005).

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hancock, J.; Kushlan, J. 1984. The herons handbook. Croom Helm, London.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Kushlan, J. A.; Hancock, J. A. 2005. The herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Egretta ardesiaca. Downloaded from on 23/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/04/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Ardeidae (Herons and egrets)
Species name author (Wagler, 1827)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 8,500,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Climate change species distributions