Australian Bush Birds
Pied Heron  -  Ardea picata
Pied Heron
Pied Heron beside the Mary River in the Northern Territory Top End. This bird carries breeding plumage.
Pied Heron Pied Heron
Left. Pied Heron on Fogg Dam, NT. Right. Pied Herons are gregarious birds gathered to feed on Fogg Dam.
map map The Pied Heron - Ardea picata - is a dark blue and white, long legged bird. The neck, back of head and upper breast, and face below the bill are white. Upper face, top of the head and body are dark blue. Bill and legs are yellow. Bare skin between the eye and the upper bill is dark blue; the base of the upper mandible is also dark blue. Breeding adults have white plumes spreading from the neck down over the body and blue plumes from the back of the head as well as (less easily seen) over the back. Male and female are similar, about 45 to 48 centimetres. Eyes are usually yellow, turning red when breeding.

Immature birds are similar to adults in shape but have completely white head, neck, breast and belly. part of the wing is white. Face skin is yellow-grey. Adult plumage is gained at the end of the first annual moult.

A gregarious bird which commonly gathers in loose groups of five to 30 or more to feed on shallow freshwater or saline swamps, wet grasslands; sewage works and garbage tips are also visited. White-headed juveniles sometimes gather in flocks of several hundred around drying lagoons in the dry season.

Pied Heron - page 2
Some adult birds are more solitary and defend feeding territories of about 50 square metres against other adults.

Food includes crustaceans, small molluscs and fish but the major food items are insects which Pied Herons often find around cattle, horses, buffalo and pigs.

Pied Herons move about more than most herons and spend less time standing still looking around unless hunting in water more than 15 centimetres deep when the usual heron-like practice of standing-waiting-looking-striking are used. In shallower water, or swamps they walk along quickly using rapid pecks to gather food.

Locally abundant on coastal flood plains of northern Australia. Lives in saltwater and freshwater coastal swamps and nearby grasslands between the Fitzroy River (the Kimberley) to the Burdekin River (near Townsville). These birds roost communally.

Breeding season is in the Wet Season, from January to May. Nests are built in colonies, usually in pockets of estuarine mangroves that flood at high tide. Nests are a platform of sticks and twigs in a tree from two to five metres above the mud. Three or four eggs are laid; blue-green, elliptical, about 42 millimetres by 30 millimetres.

Pied Heron
Pied Heron hunting beside the Mary River in the Northern Territory Top End.