Pacific reef heron

   ›      ›   Pacific reef heron - Egretta sacra.

The Pacific reef heron (Egretta sacra) belongs to the family Ardeidae.

The Pacific reef heron is distributed in oceanic region of India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Malay Peninsula, Polynesia, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.


  • Scientific Name: Egretta sacra
  • Common Name: Pacific reef heron
  • French: Aigrette sacrée; German: Riffreiher; Spanish: Garceta de arrecife;
  • Other names: eastern reef heron, Pacific Reef-egret or eastern reef egret;
  • Family: Ardeidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Gmelin, 1789
There are two recognized subspecies. The subspecies, E. s. sacra (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) occurs in Pacific and oceanic regions of Asia, Philippines, New Guinea, Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand.

The subspecies, E. s. albolineata (G. R. Gray, 1859) occurs in Pacific islands, New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands.
Indian birds - Pacific reef heron - Egretta sacra
Indian birds - Pacific reef heron - Egretta sacra


The Pacific reef heron species are medium sized birds, measuring 55 to 66 cm in length and weighing 330 to 700 grams. The wingspan is 90 to 100 cm.

These heron species show an unusual, non-sexual dimorphism. Some birds have entirely white plumage whereas some birds have entirely dark grey plumage. A large number of birds have dark grey plumage.

They have short, stout, yellow-green or brown legs. The beak is thick and colored yellowish to brown. The eyes are bright golden yellow. In breeding season these birds develop lance-shaped plumes on their neck and back.


The Pacific reef heron inhabit coastal regions like rocky shores and offshore islands. They are also observed on mangrove margins, tidal flats, beaches, tidal creeks. They are occasionally seen in inland marshes.

Feeding habits

The Pacific reef heron feed both by day and by night and the feeding time depending on the tides.

They creep along slowly with hunched back to catch the prey. Sometimes they are seen stirring the water to expose potential prey. These birds feed mainly on ocean based fish, shrimp and molluscs.


These heron species lay eggs year round in colonies in woodlands. They nest on ground, palms or other trees and lay two or six pale greenish-blue eggs. Males and females incubate the eggs and also feed the chicks.


The Pacific reef heron is distributed in oceanic region of India, Southeast Asia, Pacific Asia, Japan, Malay Peninsula, Polynesia, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

Movement Patterns

These heron species are mostly sedentary. Post breeding dispersal is observed in some areas.

Status and conservation

The Pacific reef heron population is presently widespread and large. There is no immediate threat to these heron species. The effects of human activity, climate change, habitat degradation are the possible conservation threats in the near future.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these heron species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Egretta sacra
Species:E. sacra
Binomial name:Egretta sacra
Distribution:oceanic region of India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand;
Feeding habits:fish, crustaceans and molluscs;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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Image source:
Author: Glen Fergus | License: CC BY-SA 2.5
Current topic in Birds of India: Pacific reef heron - Egretta sacra.
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