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Blacknecked Heron

Bird of the month is the Blacknecked Heron (Tardea melanocephala).

Colouring: Bare parts: Iris yellow; bill black above, yellow to greenish below and at base; lores yellow and green; legs and feet black; neck long, black on hindneck; white on foreneck; underwing white in front, black behind (two-tone).

Voice: Various croaks, squawks, growls and gurgles.

Habitat: Open grassland, fallow fields, edges of inland waters, forest clearings.

Distribution: Throughout southern Africa.

Habits: Solitary when feeding, either standing and waiting for prey, or stalking slowly. Roosts colonially in trees or reedbeds on islands, up to 30km from feeding grounds. Flight slow, about 143 wingbeats/minute.

Food: Frogs, fish, crabs, insects, rodents, birds, small reptiles, worms, spiders, scorpions, snails, moles.

Breeding season: Mainly during summer months throughout southern Africa.

Incubation and fledging: Incubation: 23-27 days by both sexes. Nestling: Flies at about 40-55 days, independent at 60 days; fed by both parents. Clutch: Usually 2-4 oval, pale blue eggs.


Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.

Kenneth Newman: Newman’s Birds by Colour. 2000.

Photographs are courtesy of Gavin Orbel, Eris Stockenstroom and Mercia Komen of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy/Oori; this series is a joint venture with Hartebeestfontein Conservancy (text).