Fun Western Reef Heron Facts For Kids

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 20, 2022 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Aug 19, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Amaze yourself with these excite-wing western reef heron facts.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.2 Min

The western reef heron (Egretta gularis) is a bird with a range extending across Africa, southern parts of Europe, and parts of Asia. This bird species is also called the western reef egret. There are two different plumages of this species, one is the white morph, while the other is the dark morph. The dark morph of these birds is much similar to the dark morph of the little egret.

The western reef egret has two subspecies under it, one being the nominate Gularis subspecies, while the other being the Schistacea subspecies. The nests of this species are built at great heights and placed high up in trees or shrubs. Both  parent herons share the parenting and incubation duties. The eggs hatch open after about 24 days of incubation.

For more relatable content, check out these green heron facts and little blue heron facts for kids.

Western Reef Heron Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a western reef heron?

The western reef heron (Egretta gularis) is a type of heron.

What class of animal does a western reef heron belong to?

The western reef egret belongs to the class Aves.

How many western reef herons are there in the world?

We do not have the total number of individuals of this bird species. However, the IUCN has given this bird a status of Least Concern which implies that the population is currently stable.

Where does a western reef heron live?

The western reef heron range extends across Africa, southern Europe, and parts of Asia. They are also spotted along the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The nominate subspecies (Gularis) has its range extending from West Africa all the way to Gabon. Their breeding distribution begins from Mauritania to Gabon. They also appear as nomads in North America, South America, and the beautiful Caribbean Islands.

The other subspecies (Schistacea) breeds from the Persian Gulf in Iran along the coastline of India to the eastern side of the Indian Peninsula.

What is a western reef heron's habitat?

The birds of this species are found close to coastlines. They can be found near swamps, estuaries, sandy or rocky shorelines, and even near lagoons.

Who do western reef herons live with?

Herons, in general, prefer spending their time alone.

How long does a western reef heron live?

In general, herons have a lifespan ranging between 15-25 years.

How do they reproduce?

In the regions near the Red Sea, the breeding season occurs between the months of June to August. The original subspecies (Gularis) breeding in West Africa chooses the months between April to September for mating. The breeding season in India is observed from April to August during the rainy season. The main breeding grounds are coastal wetlands.

Nesting is usually carried out in loose colonies of birds that belong either to their own species or with other herons and egrets. Nests are placed in either shrubs or trees on platforms of sticks. Both male and female birds work together in building the nest. The male bird collects and fetches the sticks to build the nest, and the female places them systematically to form a platform. The height of the nest varies between 16.4-49.2 ft  (5-15 m). Low nesting has also been observed in mangroves which are at heights of about 1.96 ft (0.6 m), but this is rare.

There are usually three to four western reef heron eggs in a clutch, though it may sometimes go up to seven eggs as well. These eggs are of a light blue hue. Incubation duties begin from the time the first egg is laid. Both adult herons have a fair share of incubation duties and after about three and a half weeks, the eggs hatch open.

The chicks born are white in color with grayish dapples. Due to the nests being placed really high, there are instances when the chicks fall out of the nests and have fatal injuries. After about a month, the young chicks leave the nest and fledging occurs after about one and a half months.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the western reef heron (Egretta gularis) is Least Concern.

Western Reef Heron Fun Facts

What do western reef herons look like?

There are two different plumage color forms for this medium-sized bird. The first in an entire white morph whereas the second is a dark gray morph. If you see the white morph, you will think this bird is quite similar in appearance to the little egret. However, these western reef birds have a considerably bigger yellow bill. They also have extended yellow on large thick legs.

On the other hand, the gray morph has a slight white throat. The beak and legs are much similar to the white morph. Breeding adults are easy to identify because their legs and facial area turn slightly red. On the sides of their nape, they have two really long feathers.

The dark morph herons are known to predominate the nominate reef heron race. However, in the Schistacea race, the body plumage is more of a blue-gray hue.

The white morph of the western reef heron resembles that of the little egret.

How cute are they?

We would not really call the western reef heron (Egretta gularis) a cute species.

How do they communicate?

Herons are known to communicate mainly with body postures. They make low grunts or 'kwok' sounds.

How big is a western reef heron?

The western reef heron size is about 21.5-25.5 in (55-65 cm) long. This makes them about three times the size of the fox sparrow.

How fast can a western reef heron fly?

We do not know how fast the western reef heron (Egretta gularis) can fly. However, in general, herons can reach a speed of 20-30 mph (32-48 kph) and their large wingspans make for a beautiful sight.

How much does a western reef heron weigh?

The western reef heron (Egretta gularis) weighs between 10.58-24.7 oz (300-700 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

In general, a female heron is called a hen and a male heron is called a boar.

What would you call a baby western reef heron?

Generally, a baby heron is called a chick.

What do they eat?

Food is hunted from shallow water bodies. These herons often run or stir the water slowly using their feet to disturb prey. Sometimes, they may stand still and try to ambush their prey. Prime constituents of its diet are fish, crustaceans like krill and shrimp, insects, and even mollusks. Mudskippers are also a part of their diet. Insects such as locusts, worms, small reptiles are also eaten by these birds.

Adult herons feed their chicks with regurgitated food, making it easier for the little chicks to swallow. The main constituents of this diet include small fish.

Are they dangerous?

No, the western reef egret bird is not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

We do not think this species would make a good pet as they prefer a coastal habitat.

Did you know...

Adults usually shade their babies in the warmer hours of the day.

The main predators of the eggs of this species include rats. The young chicks fall prey to crows and cats. However, the adults try to stay back and guard the nests as much as possible.

A group of herons has many names such as rookery, pose, battery, scattery, or hedge of herons.

How many types of heron are there?

There are about 18 different genera of heron species. This constitutes 72 species of egrets, herons, and bitterns, of which five have gone extinct. Two major genera of herons are the Egretta and the Ardea.

The genus Ardea is also called typical herons and has 12 different species under it. Some birds under this genus include the goliath heron and grey heron.

The Egretta genus has 13 surviving species under it. Birds such as the reddish egret, snowy egret, and the little egret come under this genus.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our yellow-crowned night heron facts and tricolored heron facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable western reef heron coloring pages.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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