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5

White-faced Heron

(Egretta [Ardea] novaehollandiae)
Alternate name(s): "White-fronted Heron"; misnomer: "Blue Crane"
Aboriginal name(s): "budhuulgaa" [yuwaalaraay]; "wyan", "boolong" (WA)

Size: 66-69 cm
Weight: 450-690 g

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 White-faced Heron at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

BREEDING

Frontal view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

Frontal view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage inspecting a pond
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

Near-frontal view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Wynnum Foreshore, Brisbane, QLD, August 2017]

Near-lateral view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Toorbul, Brisbane, QLD, January 2018]

Lateral portrait of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, August 2015]

Close-up lateral view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, August 2015]

Lateral view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Brisbane River, Brisbane, QLD, October 2012]

Lateral view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage inspecting a pond
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2012]

Dorsal view of a White-faced Heron in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

NON-BREEDING

Frontal view of a White-faced Heron in non-breeding plumage
[Whittaker's Lagoon, near Moree, NSW, June 2012]

White-faced Heron in non-breeding plumage having its feathers ruffled by a strong tail wind
(photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Karatta, Kangaroo Island, SA, March 2016]

This is the White-faced Heron whose calls were recorded on 27 July 2016
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, July 2016]

Near-frontal view of a White-faced Heron in non-breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2009]

Lateral view of a White-faced Heron in non-breeding plumage
[Near Hat Head, NSW, January 2011]

White-faced Heron in non-breeding or partial breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Botanical Garden, Melbourne, VIC, October 2017]

White-faced Heron hunting in shallow water
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2011]

White-faced Heron in an intertidal wetland
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, February 2012]

White-faced Heron taking off from its perch
[Whittaker's Lagoon, near Moree, NSW, June 2012]

Lateral view of a White-faced Heron in flight, with its neck almost straight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2011]

White-faced Heron in flight, with its head lower than everything else
[Old Bar, NSW, July 2013]

White-faced Heron in flight, with the typical folded neck and trailing legs (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, July 2014]

Flaps, landing gear out - White-faced Heron preparing to land
[Old Bar, NSW, July 2013]

Lateral/ventral view of a White-faced Heron in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2018]

Lateral/ventral view of a White-faced Heron in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2018]

Hybrid

Lateral view of a suspected hybrid between a White-faced Heron and a Pied Heron; a comparison with a Magpie Goose shows that it is a small heron (photo courtesy of R. Russell)
[Near Mareeba, QLD, December 2011]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of a juvenile White-faced Heron; note the absence of the white facial mask; the faint light-grey ring around the eye indicates that this is not a grey-morphology Eastern Reef Egret (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Caloundra Headland, QLD, January 2018]

Lateral view of a juvenile White-faced Heron moulting into adult plumage
[Pilliga Lagoon, Pilliga, NSW, February 2017]

Lateral view of a juvenile White-faced Heron (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Near Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, May 2014]

Portrait of a young White-faced Heron that has no flight yet; this bird was only about 35-40 cm tall
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2011]

Near-frontal view of the same White-faced Heron
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2011]

Lateral view of the same White-faced Heron
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2011]

Dorsal view of the same White-faced Heron as shown above
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2011]

Direct comparison of a White-faced Heron (left) and a juvenile White-necked Heron (right)
[Near Moree, NSW, June 2013]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 21 - 24 days Fledging age: 40 - 45 days

White-faced Herons are usually solitary breeders, rarely in loose, small colonies. The breeding season of White-faced Herons can be longer, inland especially when there is plenty of water (and thereby prey).

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks Height above ground: 10 - 25 m

White-faced Heron near its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, October 2015]

White-faced Heron on its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, October 2015]

White-faced Heron on its nest (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

The same White-faced Heron nest as shown above, now with juveniles in it (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

White-faced Heron chick that has ventured out of its nest (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, October 2017]

White-faced Heron chick that has ventured out of its nest (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, October 2017]

Eggs

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

Size: 47 x 34 mm Colour: White Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial? Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

A peculiarity observed by us is that White-faced Heron are sometimes sticking around a kangaroo carcass, e.g. by a roadside. If not scavenging, the only other possibility is that they are looking for maggots to pick off the carcass.

This White-faced Heron was waiting for the annoying car to pass before getting back to a kangaroo carcass in the ditch; the bird was seen at this spot consistently for weeks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2011]

Amid much squawking, one White-faced Heron is chasing away another
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2014]

White-faced Heron perched on an old trunk of a mangrove
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, March 2015]

This White-faced Heron is giving a view of its kinked tongue
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, March 2015]

Food, Diet

All egrets and herons prey on aquatic creatures in fresh water or estuaries (fish, frogs, snakes, crustaceans). We have observed a White-faced Herons emptying tadpoles out of an ornamental pond over the course of at least a week.

White-faced Heron taking a salt crab
[Old Bar, NSW, July 2013]

This White-faced Heron was apparently using Soldier Crabs to flush prey - it put up with being nipped on the feet at times, but did not seem to take any of the crabs (photo courtesy of C. Charles)
[Narooma, NSW, May 2013]

White-faced Heron taking a lizard (photo courtesy of C. Booker)
[Thornlands, Redlands, QLD, June 2013]

White-faced Herons can sometimes be seen hunting in fast-flowing water
[Inverell, NSW, January 2017]

"Listen, mate, do you want those frogs taken out of your bathtub or not?"
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2018]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

wfheron_20161104_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Contact call? © MD
wfheron_20160727_1.mp3 (NW NSW) ? © MD
wfheron_20160727_4.mp3 (NW NSW) ? © MD
wfheron_20160727_5.mp3 (NW NSW) ? © MD
wfheron_20160727.mp3 (NW NSW) ? © MD

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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