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5

White-necked Heron

(Ardea pacifica)
Alternate name(s): "Pacific Heron"; misnomer: "White-necked Crane"
Aboriginal name(s): "djilimilyan", "koondji", "nanto" (WA); "boonabaroo"

Size: 0.75 - 1.05 m
Weight: 600-1200 g
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See White-necked 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

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

Near-lateral view of a White-necked Heron in breeding plumage checking out an ornamental pond
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

Lateral view of a White-necked Heron in breeding plumage
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of a White-necked Heron in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, September 2014]

White-necked Heron launching itself off a dead branch

White-necked Heron gaining height

Soaring White-necked Heron seen from below
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, February 2006]

NON-BREEDING

White-necked Heron (right) and Yellow-billed Spoonbill, both in non-breeding plumage, both looking pinkish, either because of new feathers or possibly from contact with red algae (the photo was taken around mid-day, not in mellow sunlight around dusk or dawn)
[Yarrie Lake, NSW, July 2017]

A whole array of aquatic birds hunting/foraging: three White-necked Herons (of which two, on the left and right, are in non-breeding plumage, while the one near the centre is an immature bird), two Australian White Ibis in breeding plumage, two Great Egrets, one Purple Swamphen, one Dusky Moorhen and two Pacific Black Ducks
[O'Brien's Creek, Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of a sub-adult White-necked Heron, with remnant spots of its juvenile plumage (photo courtesy of I. Duncan)
[Glen Iris wetlands, Melbourne, VIC, March 2013]

Frontal view of an immature White-necked Heron moulting into adult plumage (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Whittaker's Lagoon, near Moree, NSW, June 2012]

Near-frontal view of an immature White-necked Heron moulting into adult plumage
[Whittaker's Lagoon, near Moree, NSW, June 2012]

Lateral view of an immature White-necked Heron
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, July 2010]

Lateral view of an immature White-necked Heron (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Currawinya NP, near Hungerford, QLD, October 2012]

Lateral view of an immature White-necked Heron in aquatic vegetation (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Lateral view of an immature White-necked Heron on a dead branch (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, March 2017]

Immature White-necked Heron launching itself into the air (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, March 2017]

Immature White-necked Heron in flight, just after take-off (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, March 2017]

Frontal view of a young immature White-necked Heron
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, May 2012]

Different lateral view of a young immature White-necked Heron
[Goran Lake, NSW, May 2012]

Dorsal view of a young immature White-necked Heron
[Goran Lake, NSW, May 2012]

Most of the time the life of an immature White-necked Heron is quiet and peaceful, but then suddenly one gets swooped by a Caspian Tern!
[Goran Lake, NSW, May 2012]

This White-necked Heron felt threatened by a nearby Brown Goshawk (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Eastlakes Golf Course, Sydney, NSW, August 2014]

Lateral view of an immature White-necked Heron in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, July 2010]

Lateral view of an immature White-necked Heron in flight
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2012]

Immature White-necked Heron in a creek
[Near Narrabri, NSW, April 2009]

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

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 4 Incubation period: ca. 30 days Fledging age: 42 - 49 days

White-necked Herons are colonial breeders. The breeding season of White-necked 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

Close-up view of a White-necked Heron nest with two downy chicks (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Zoom-in on the chicks; this photo also demonstrates that the nest is quite shallow (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Nest with four juveniles in it (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Only one fledgling is left in this nest; this bird is ready to leave the nest very soon (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

White-necked Heron on its nest, just 2 m above the water level in a swamp
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2016]

White-necked Heron near its nest (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Near Baradine, NSW, 1980ies]

Eggs

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

Size: 52 x 38 mm Colour: White to pale-blue Shape: Long ellipsoidal

Behaviour

Social behaviour: ? Mobility: Dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary

4 eggs inside a White-necked Heron nest (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Near Baradine, NSW, 1980ies]

Food, Diet

All egrets and herons prey on aquatic creatures in fresh water or estuaries (fish, frogs, snakes or crustaceans). We are not aware of any specialisation of White-necked Herons.

White-necked Heron with small prey, a tiny frog
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

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.

wnheron_20171019.m4a (NW NSW) Warning/departure (adult) © MD
wnheron_20140419.mp3 (NW NSW) Alarm/departure (immature) © MD
wnheron_20161216.mp3 (NW NSW) ? (Adult in-flight) © 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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