Bird Watch – White-faced heron

The white-faced heron. Photo courtesy Steve Attwood, Christchurch.

The white-faced heron. Photo courtesy Steve Attwood, Christchurch.

These white-faced herons were photographed at Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere by Christchurch photographer Steve Attwood. Steve is a regular visitor to the lake and has a keen interest in the birds that make the lake environment home.

Self-introduced from Australia, the white-faced heron is now the most common heron in New Zealand and on a drive out to Taumutu, it’s not unusual to spot dozens of them flocked in watery fields after wet weather. It’s an environment they love – wetlands of any sort, tidal mudflats, coastal reefs to moist grasslands and gardens.

They feed on a wide variety of prey including fish, insects and amphibians. They’ll often walk through water disturbing their prey, or they may stand motionless, watching for movement.

The white-faced heron is a medium-sized heron with primarily blue-grey plumage. As the name suggests it has white on the face and the front of its neck. The back is medium blue-grey with the chest and underside more brown-toned.

white faced heron 2

White-faced herons occur throughout Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. They are a relatively new species in New Zealand, having self-introduced in the 1940s. From the 1950s onwards numbers have grown rapidly and they are now widespread throughout the country

The white-faced heron is one of New Zealand’s commonest large birds.

Roosting white-faced herons perch in trees or on top of man-made structures such as street lights. They roost solitarily or occasionally as pairs. During courtship and nesting, white-faced herons raise their plumes, and they may perform aerial displays near the nest.

The white-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) also known as the white-fronted heron and incorrectly as the grey heron or blue crane.  It is a common bird throughout most of Australasia , including New Guinea, the Torres Strait islands, Indonesia, New Zealand,  the Sub-Antarctic islands and all but the driest areas of Australia.

All photos courtesy of Steve Attwood, Christchurch.