Also referred to as Ardea melanocephala, the Black-headed heron is a large wading large bird of the heron family Ardeidae, Kingdom-Animalia, phylum-Chordata, class-Aves, order-pelecaniformes and genus-Ardea normally explored on Uganda birding safari tours.
Stretching to 85cm in height and with a wingspan of 150cm, the Black-headed Heron is an amazing bird species that is worth exploring while on Africa birding safari. The bird thrives in Sub Saharan Africa including Madagascar. Travelers on birding tour in Uganda have high chances of viewing this bird species in Murchison Falls National Park.
The black-headed heron closely resembles the grey heron in size though this is a bit darker. It has grey plumage at the back and the paler grey in the underparts. The bill of Black-headed Heron is darkish as always viewed on birding safaris in Uganda. Its head is retracted while in flight and this makes it different from cranes, storks and spoonbills that extend their backs. The feet and the legs are black for both sexes while its white underwing coverts are striking while in flight.
The Black-headed heron feeds mainly at night and its diet includes both vertebrates and invertebrates. These include; insects, rodents, lizards, frogs, snakes, fish, spiders among others. It is solitary and rarely feed in groups but stay in groups while resting as at times viewed on Uganda birding safari expedition.
Nesting is done by both male and female though the former collects the nest materials. The process of building a nest takes about two (2) weeks and is put at 8 – 30m off the ground. A clutch of about 2 – 3 eggs with pale blue color are laid and incubation lasts between 23 – 27 days by both parents. Fledging occurs at 40 – 50 days and attain independence at about 60 days after the hatch.
Regarding Conservation, the Black-headed Heron is listed as species of Least Concern on the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
By Siima Simon Peter