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5

Great-billed Heron

(Ardea sumatrana)
Alternate name(s): "Alligatorbird"
Size: 1.0-1.1 m
Weight: up to 2.6 kg

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Great-billed Heron at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

ADULT

BREEDING

Sex unknown

Near-frontal view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage, upright stance (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

Near-frontal view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Leanyer Sewage Ponds, Darwin, NT, July 2021]

Near-frontal view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage, hunched (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

Near-lateral view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

Close-up lateral view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, May 2020]

Close-up lateral view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage shaking itself (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, May 2020]

Lateral view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage "strutting its stuff" (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, December 2018]

Near-dorsal view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

Close-up dorsal view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage looking sideways
(photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, May 2020]

Dorsal view of a Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

NON-BREEDING

Close-up lateral portrait of a Great-billed Heron in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, May 2020]

Lateral view of a Great-billed Heron in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of H. Mouritsen)
[Kakadu NP, NT, October 2015]

Near-dorsal view of a Great-billed Heron in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Kakadu NP, NT, November 2020]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a Great-billed Heron in non-breeding plumage on the point of take-off
(photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, May 2020]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jan - Dec Eggs: 2 Incubation period: ca. 60 days Fledging age: ca. 66 days

The breeding season of the Great-billed Heron in Australia is not well-known. They can probably breed year round, after monsoonal rain. geographical latitude. The period listed in the table above refers to the East of Australia. In the tropical North the breeding season is usually from December to March.

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, leaves Height above ground: ?

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Great-billed Herons tend to nest in remote locations in mangroves in tidal mudflats. Nests tend to be large (more than 1 m in diameter).

Close-up frontal view of a Great-billed Heron on its nest on a major horizontal fork in a mangrove
(photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, February 2023]

Close-up near-lateral view of a Great-billed Heron on its nest (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, February 2023]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 70 x 50 mm Colour: Light bluish-green Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Great-billed Herons are often found in mudflats in intertidal wetlands dominated by mangroves (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Leanyer Sewage Ponds, Darwin, NT, July 2021]

Food, Diet

Great-billed Heron in breeding plumage taking its prey, which looks like a mud crab (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, August 2013]

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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