Birdwatch | White-faced Herons found in shallow water, including at Lorn

EFFICIENT HUNTERS: Herons eat a variety of foods and use different hunting techniques to secure food.
EFFICIENT HUNTERS: Herons eat a variety of foods and use different hunting techniques to secure food.

This is one of the most common herons found in Australia and Tasmania and very prominent in our area.

They adapt to urban areas very well and their habitat has increased since European settlement with the development of irrigated land, ditches and dams.

There is a White-faced Heron that is frequently seen in Lorn, walking around in gardens. I once saw this bird perched on top of a chimney – if only I had a camera that day!

These herons are slender blue-grey birds with a white face and are tall, up to 70 centimetres in height. They have long yellowish legs and a long, pointy, lethal looking bill. In the breeding season they develop long plumes on the nape and back and shorter plumes on the chest.

White-faced Herons can be found in most areas containing shallow water, either fresh, brackish or salty and either natural or man-made. They are also regularly seen on mudflats, pastures, residential lawns and in backyard ponds.

Herons eat a varied diet and like other successful bird species, this diversity may contribute to their success. Their diet consists of crustaceans, amphibians, snails and worms. I have also seen them, much to my surprise, eating road-kill.

They hunt by slow stalking, intently watching the ground, ready to strike, their long s-shaped neck propelling that lethal bill in lightning-fast strikes. When hunting in water, they often use one foot to stir up the water to flush the prey. They may also hunt at night.

While they are usually found alone or in pairs they sometimes congregate in large flocks and hundreds have been seen together at places like Hexham Swamp.

Breeding occurs all through the year when food is sufficient. A nest is built in a tree and consists of a platform of loosely arranged twigs on which four pale blue eggs are laid.

Herons have an unusual courtship display, consisting of following each other along a branch with head lowered, pecking at sticks as they go.

White-faced herons groom their feathers with powder, derived from special down found beneath the plumage on the breast and rump.