White Faced Heron – Egretta novaehollandiae Ardeidae – The Great Southern – Western Australia
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The White-faced Heron is particularly versatile. It can be seen in many different wetland habitats: they occur on reefs, in rock pools and mudflats by the coast, in estuaries and saltmarsh, swamps, rivers, drains and at farm dams; they even occur in pasture and hypersaline wetlands. There they can be seen foraging for a wide range of prey, mostly small aquatic creatures, using various methods, including standing and waiting for their prey, slowly stalking it, frantically dashing after it, or disturbing it by stirring the water with their feet.
The White-faced Heron is mostly light blue-grey in colour, with a characteristic white face. In flight, the dark flight feathers of the wing contrast with the paler grey plumage, making this bird easily identifiable when viewed from below. It has a long, slim neck and a pointed grey-black bill. The legs are long and dull yellow in colour. Sexes are similar. When breeding, the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back. The White-faced Heron has a slow bouncing flight. Young White-faced Herons are similar in appearance to the non-breeding adults (no nuptial plumes), but are duller, with little or no white on the face. They often have a reddish colour on the underparts.
White-faced Herons are the most commonly seen herons in Australia. They are found throughout the mainland and Tasmania, and most coastal islands. They also occur in Indonesia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand.
The White-faced Heron feeds on a wide variety of prey, including fish, insects and amphibians. Food is obtained in a variety of ways, such as walking and disturbing prey, searching among damp crevices or simply standing in the water and watching for movement.
White-faced Herons may breed outside the breeding season in response to rainfall. Both sexes share the building of the nest, incubation of the eggs and care of the young. The nest is an untidy structure of sticks, placed in a tree. Normally only one brood of young is raised in a year.
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