Also known as the little heron due to its small size, the striated heron has a dark grey back, a thick grey to reddish-brown neck, a large, dark beak, and a glossy greenish-black cap, with a short crest. The chin and throat are sometimes white, marked with a reddish-brown vertical band, and the underparts are brownish-grey to grey. However, the species is quite variable in appearance, and several subspecies are recognised. In general, the female striated heron tends to be slightly smaller and duller in colour than the male, while juveniles are brown with white spots, and have a brown-black crown with white streaks. The head, neck and underparts are streaked with buff-white, but this streaking is gradually lost as the bird matures. The striated heron is not a very vocal bird, but may give a ‘keeuuk’ call in flight or when alarmed. Displaying males may also use a ‘skow’ call, to which the female may respond with a gentle ‘coo’.
Striated heron's facts
Did you know? They sometimes use bait, dropping a feather or leaf carefully on the water surface and picking fish that come to investigate.
Striated heron's Feeding
The diet of the striated heron consists mainly of fish, but it is an opportunistic feeder and will also take insects, worms, crustaceans, frogs, reptiles and even other birds. It usually feeds alone, often standing for long periods in or next to water, waiting to strike at prey. This species has also been observed to use an ingenious ‘fishing’ technique, dropping insects or leaves onto the surface of the water to attract prey, a method known as baiting.
Striated heron's Reproduction
The striated heron does not appear to have a specific breeding season, nesting year-round in some areas, although often with a peak during the rains. The species may breed up to three times a year, constructing a nest in shrubs, bushes or trees, overhanging the water. At the nest site, the male performs an elaborate courtship display involving crest-raising, neck fluffing and ‘snap and stretch’ displays, in which the bird moves its head down to its feet and snaps the beak, before stretching the neck straight up and back. The courting pair then perform this ‘snap and stretch’ display together. The female striated heron lays three to five eggs, which usually take around 21 to 25 days to hatch. Both adults tend to the young, and it is quite common for this care to continue for quite some time after the young leave the nest. Most striated heron pairs nest alone, although loose breeding colonies do sometimes occur
Striated heron's Conservation
The species is threatened by human disturbance, pesticides and habitat destruction (e.g. the loss of mangroves).
In Maldives, this species is a protected by law since 11th July 1999.
Striated heron habitat
Behaviour The majority of this species is sedentary although northern breeding populations are migratory and populations in Africa may perform local movements relating to seasonal rainfall (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The timing of breeding varies geographically but often occurs during the rains in the tropics (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). The species is highly territorial and often forages and nests singly (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005), occasionally also nesting in loosely spaced single-species groups of 5-15 pairs, or even in larger breeding aggregations of several hundred (300-500) (del Hoyo et al. 1992) pairs (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Habitat The species shows a preference for forested water margins (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, Kushlan and Hancock 2005) such as mangrove-lined shores and estuaries, or dense woody vegetation fringing ponds, rivers, lakes and streams (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Other suitable habitats include river swamps, canals, artificial ponds, salt-flats (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), mudflats, tidal zones, exposed coral reefs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), reedbeds, grassy marshland, pastures, rice-fields and other flooded cultivation (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet Its diet varies considerably over its range (del Hoyo et al. 1992) but usually consists predominantly of fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005) as well as amphibians (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. frogs) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), insects (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. water beetles, grasshoppers and dragonflies) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), spiders, leeches, crustaceans (e.g. crabs and prawns), molluscs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), earthworms, polychaete worms, birds (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), small reptiles and mice (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a small, shallow structure of twigs (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) placed well hidden amongst the branches of trees or bushes (especially mangroves Rhizophora spp. and Avicennia spp., or Allocasuarina spp., Myoporum spp., Callistemon spp., Hibiscus spp., Casuarina spp., Syzygium spp.and Inga spp.) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) 0.3-10 m above the surface of water or above the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992).
Striated heron threats
The species is threatened by human disturbance, pesticides (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and habitat destruction (e.g. the loss of mangroves) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Utilisation The species is taken for food in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992).