Appearance There are 12 species of Heron found in Kenya. Herons share their family name (Ardeidae) with Egrets and Bitterns. Herons vary in size greatly, from the Striated (Green-backed) Heron standing at 16" (41cm) to the Goliath Heron, 60" (152cm). Long legs and long necks make up the height. A 'powder-puff' of feathers, hidden on the breast and sides of rump are used during preening. The feathers continue growing and shredding during the bird's lifetime, shredding into powder. Herons all have long toes, the middle one at the front containing a pectinate toenail - it has barbs, like a comb, for preening. They have huge, broad wings that are firmly flapped on take-off, then used to glide on thermals.
Habits Most often seen wading in the margins of large waters, Herons have a pointed bill they use to spear their prey. Herons necks are usually kinked at rest and when flying, unlike Storks, Ibis, Spoonbills and Cranes, but are then extended, when active. During breeding time, some Herons grow long filamentous plumes on the backs of their heads, change eye-colour and get enhanced colours on their faces. Generally, nests are made in trees or reeds. Most Herons are active during the day, but some are crepuscular (active in twilight) and others nocturnal (active at night).
Diet Most Herons eat a wide variety of aquatic prey, but some also feed on dry ground, taking insects and rodents. The Black-headed Heron also takes snakes.
Resident Herons are normally seen near water, generally nesting in large, mixed colonies, on top of trees or bushes.
Extra Heron Facts Herons make little noise, but will croak.
Photographs Photographed at Kenya's Masai Mara, Lake Baringo, Meru NP, Nairobi NP and Olare Orok Conservancy.