Western reef heron

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The western reef heron (Egretta gularis) is a egret belonging to the family Ardeidae. The western reef heron is distributed in Africa, Red Sea region, Persian Gulf, Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka.

Taxonomy of Western reef heron

  • Scientific Name: Egretta gularis
  • Common Name: Western reef heron
  • French: Aigrette à gorge blanche; German: Küstenreiher; Spanish: Garceta dimorfa;
  • Other names: Ardea gularis Bosc, 1792; Western Reef-egret;
  • Family: Ardeidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Bosc, 1792)
The Egretta gularis is closely related to E. thula and E. garzetta. The three recognized subspecies are: E. g. gularis (Bosc, 1792), E. g. schistacea (Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1828) and E. g. dimorpha E. J. O. Hartert, 1914.
Indian birds - Western reef heron - Egretta gularis
Indian birds - Western reef heron - Egretta gularis


The western reef heron is a medium sized bird, measuring 55 to 65 cm in length and weighing 300 to 700 grams. The wingspan is 85 to 105 cm. These heron species have two color forms. There is an all-white morph and a dark grey morph. There may be partial coloration as well as intermediate shades of grey. The bill is large and yellow. The breeding heron birds may have reddish tinge on the legs and facial skin. Two long feathers on the sides of the nape are seen in breeding birds.


These heron species inhabit estuaries, mudflats, marshes, tidal flats, creeks, lagoons, rocky shores, sandy shores, reefs, mangroves, rocky cliffs and islets.

Feeding habits

The western reef heron species feed on fish, crustaceans and molluscs. They also feed on invertebrates like insects, grubs and earthworms. They stalk the prey by standing still in shallow water. Sometimes they are seen stirring the water with foot to flush out the prey.


These heron species construct platform nests on reedbeds, mangrove trees and bushes. They breeding season in India is during monsoon. Both the partners take part in nest building. The usual clutch is three to four eggs. Both the parents incubate the eggs and raise the hatchlings.


The subspecies E. g. gularis occurs in coastal Western Africa. The subspecies E. g. schistacea occurs in coastal East Africa, Red Sea region, Persian Gulf region, Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka. The subspecies E. g. dimorpha occurs in Madagascar, Seychelles and coastal East Africa.

Movement Patterns

The western reef heron species are sedentary and disperse widely. They are partially migratory. They roost in large numbers on mangrove trees.

Status and conservation

The western reef heron species were hunted for their plumes. Their population appears to have recovered presently. The habitat loss is the main threat to conservation.

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

Biological classification of Egretta gularis
Species:E. gularis
Binomial name:Egretta gularis
Distribution:Africa, Persian Gulf, Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:fish, crustaceans, molluscs;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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