Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chinese Pond Heron

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 1

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chinese Pond Heron ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 6-11-12

I’m stopping over for a few days in Hong Kong. It’s not the best time of the year for birding here – the northern spring and autumn/fall are good for migrants and the northern winter is good for waders and waterbirds – but we did go out to the Hong Kong Wetland Park near Mai Po reserve in the New Territories on Saturday. One of the species I was keen to see was the Chinese Pond Heron and this one in breeding plumage landed on a post near the hide/blind we were in.

This was of interest to me as it’s on the Australian list as a rare vagrant and I’d seen only non-breeding birds before (in Malaysia). The non-breeding plumage is streaky brown and white and not very distinguished, but when breeding the birds acquire striking black, white and chestnut plumage with a multi-coloured bill. This bird fluffed out its feathers, preened itself a bit and settled down for a few seconds, second photo.

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 2

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 2

These are stocky, mid-sized (47cm/19in in length) herons that feed on fish and invertebrates. Their breeding range includes China and northern Japan. In the northern winter some migrate south to Malaysia and Indonesia, including Java, and sometimes they overshoot and end up in the Australian territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and on the Australian mainland. This particular one hung around for thirty seconds and then took off, third photo, showing how high they can jump when taking off – they need to be able to do this to take off from reed beds.

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 3

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 3

In flight, fourth photo, the bird displays the striking white wing characteristic of all six species of Pond Herons (genus Ardeola). These are mainly Asian and African species, though the Squacco Heron occurs in southern Europe. The Chinese Pond Heron is closely related to the rather similar Indian Pond Heron (this one was photographed behind the Taj Mahal.

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 4

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) by Ian 4

Only 30 seconds elapsed between the first and last photos, so we were lucky to have this encounter and it was the only one we saw. The Hong Kong Government is making admirable efforts, through Mai Po Reserved and the restored Hong Kong Wetland Park, to conserve wildlife, but the area is very close to the densely populated and heavily industrialised areas of southern China and the local population of Chinese Pond Herons is suffering from the effects of water pollution on their prey (mud skippers and crustaceans).

Best wishes

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
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Lee’s Addition:

Ian, you sure get around. What a beautiful bird all decked out to “woo” its mate.

Ian has a photo of Chinese Pond Herons on his Birdway website that are in normal plumage. Not as impressive as the one above, but more normal. These herons belong to the Ardeidae – Herons and Allies Family. See a list and photos of the whole 72 species of  Herons, Bitterns and Egrets.

The stork, the heron of any variety, the hoopoe, … (Deuteronomy 14:18 AMP)

See all of Ian’s Birds of the Week articles.


One thought on “Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chinese Pond Heron

  1. Pingback: Breeding Biology of Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) in Northern Tunisia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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