The pied heron (Ardea picata), also known as the pied egret is a bird found in coastal and subcoastal areas of monsoonal northern Australia as well as some parts of Wallacea and New Guinea.
Pied heron (juvenile) - Fogg Dam - Middle Point - Northern Territory - Australia
The species was originally described by ornithologist John Gould in 1845. Some taxonomists put this species in the genus Egretta. There are no recognised subspecies.
Pied heron feeding - Fogg Dam - Middle Point - Northern Territory - Australia
Pied heron in breeding plumage - Fogg Dam - Middle Point - Northern Territory - Australia
It is a small heron, 43–55 cm long, with dark slaty wings, body, and crested head, with a white throat and neck. The appearance is similar to the white-necked heron. Males (247–280 g) are heavier than females (225–242 g), but the two are similar in appearance.
Immature birds lack the crest as well as the dark colouring on the head and may look like small versions of the white-necked heron. The juveniles were once classified as a separate species.
Distribution and habitat
Its habitat mainly comprises a range of wetlands and wet grasslands.
The call of the pied heron is a loud 'awk' or 'ohrk' in flight. Soft cooing is given around the nest. Little else is known about vocalisations.
Breeding takes place from February to May. It nests in trees above the water, including mangroves, often colonially with other species of heron. 1–2 blue-green eggs are laid in a shallow platform of sticks.
It feeds on insects, frogs, crabs, fish and other small aquatic animals. Insects are the most important source of food. It may feed alone or in groups of up to a thousand individuals.