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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Black-headed Heron

Afrikaans name: Swartkopreier

Black-headed Heron

Black-headed Heron

Photo © Steven Herbert

Ardea melanocephala

The Black-headed Heron is normally seen hunting its prey in grasslands while the similar looking Grey Heron is normally seen at the waters edge.

This heron is about 90 cm in height. Its wingspan is around 1.5 metres. It weighs around 1.5 kg.

Although it does feed on fish and frogs, caught in water, it most often eats insects, birds and small mammals. It is very patient when hunting and will stand still for long periods of time.

Black-headed Herons nest in colonies in trees or cliffs where it builds a nest out of sticks. It will often nest in the company of other herons and cormorants. 2 to 4 eggs are laid.

The Black-headed Heron is found across the whole of South Africa.

Black-headed Heron

A Black-headed Heron taking off

Photo © Steven Herbert

What's the difference between a Black-headed Heron and Grey Heron?

Grey Herons are similar in looks to Black-headed Herons. The Grey Heron is white and not black on the sides of the head. The neck is a pale grey unlike the two-tone colour of the Black-headed Heron. In flight the underwing of the Grey Heron is more uniform in colour.

See below for pictures showing the differences.

Grey Heron

Photo © Steven Herbert

Above - Grey Heron

Below - Black-headed Heron

Black-headed Heron

Photo © Steven Herbert

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References and further reading

A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: O.P.M. Prozesky - Year Published: 1983 - Page: 36

A First Guide to South African Birds - 6th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Year Published: 1959 - Page: 171

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Year Published: 1975 - Page: 171

Birds of Southern Africa - Kruger National Park - Author: Kenneth Newman - Year Published: 1985 - Page: 20

Birds of the Natal Drakensberg Park - Author: Robin Little and William Bainbridge - Year Published: 1992 - Page: 3

Birds of the South Western Cape - Author: Joy Frandsen - Year Published: - Page: 20

Birds of the Transvaal - Author: Tarboton, Kemp and Kemp - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 14

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Year Published: 1999 - Page: 8

Everyone's Guide to South African Birds - Author: John Sinclair and John Mendelsohn - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 26

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 26

Ian Sinclair's Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair - Year Published: 1988 - Page: 52

Newman's Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Year Published: 1984 - Page: 74

Newman's Birds of Southern Africa - 7th Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Year Published: 2000 - Page: 74

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Dr. Austin Roberts - Year Published: 1949 - Page: 20

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Year Published: 1975 - Page: 27

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Year Published: 1981 - Page: 31

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1985 - Page: 46

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1993 - Page: 46

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Year Published: 1993 - Page: 56

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 60

Southern African Bird Names Explained - Author: Charles Clinning - Year Published: 1989 - Page: 18

The Birds of South Africa - Author: Hazel Stokes - Year Published: 1979 - Page: 3

The Herons Handbook - Author: James Hancock and James Kushlan - Year Published: 1984 - Page: 63

Wading Birds of the World - Revised edition - Author: Eric and Richard Soothill - Year Published: 1989 - Page: 24

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 28

List of South African Birds

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