Bird Families

Egyptian heron


Egyptian heron - Bubulcus ibis Linnaeus, 1758Wagler, 1829

Spread: Sowing takes place within Russia. the border of the area. The Egyptian heron nests in the lower reaches of the Volga and Terek delta. Recorded as a stray species in the south of the Far East. Outside of Russia, it lives in the north-west. Black Sea region, Azerbaijan, in the countries of Malaya, Perednyaya, Yuzh., Southeast. Asia, India, Africa (except for the Sahara), a number of districts of Australia, in the North. and Yuzh. America.

Habitat: Small inland water bodies, floodplains and river deltas, lakes. Nests are arranged on deciduous trees, in reed supports, less often on tamariks. It settles together with ankle birds, cormorants and cormorants in mixed colonies. Monospecific colonies are rare. Reproduction begins at the age of 2 years. The average number of eggs in a clutch ranges from 2.1 (Africa) to 4.6 (Europe) [1-3].

As a rule, 1 brood, in the south. districts are possible 2 and even 3 broods per year. The species is characterized by protection of the nest from feathered predators, aggressiveness towards other members of the colony, which determines its high productivity. Average number of juveniles is from 1.8 to 4.3 per nest. It feeds mainly on insects (primarily Orthoptera), amphibians, and small fish. It can eat reptiles, their eggs, murine rodents, chicks [1,2,4]. The main wintering sites are located in the north. Africa (Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia) and Western Asia (Iran, Iraq).

Number: The world population is at least 0.5 million breeding pairs. The number of the species as a whole is on the rise due to the expansion of new territories. No more than 20 pairs nest in Russia. The first reports of nesting of Egyptian herons in the Volga delta were received in 1950 (2 pairs) and 1951 (3 pairs). ... Since 1976, the sightings of the species in the delta have become regular, but nests in the colonies were not found every year. A maximum of 16 nests were counted in 1990 in the mixed colony of the Trekhizbinsky site of the Astrakhan Reserve, in 1991 and 1994. 6 pairs nested here. Only one colony is known in the lower reaches of the Terek.

The number of herons nesting here of this species fell from 25 (1970) to 3 (1973) pairs. There are currently no data on this colony. The decrease in the number of the Egyptian heron nesting in the Volga delta is due to the rise in sea level, an increase in the duration of the flood, which causes flooding of the forage lands of birds. The reasons hindering the expansion of the nesting area on the territory of Russia include the absence of nesting biotopes and climatic factors.

Security: Included in Appendix 2 of the Berne Convention, Appendix of the agreement concluded between Russia and the Republic of Korea on the protection of migratory birds. Protected in the Astrakhan Nature Reserve.

A source:Red Data Book of Russia 1. Litvinova, 1988, 2. Brown et al., 1982, 3. Hafner, 1980, 4. Simmons, 1977, 5. Franchimont, 1985, 6. Kudryavtsev et al., 1957, 7. Bondarev, Gavrilov , 1991.

Compiled by: ON. Litvinova

Where lives

The Egyptian heron is found on all continents except Antarctica. The northern border of the range of these birds passes through the territory of Russia. They nest in the lower reaches of the Volga and Terek, and on migration are noted in the south of the Far East. Here birds prefer inland water bodies, floodplains and river deltas, small lakes.

External signs

The Egyptian heron is one of the smallest representatives of its family. Its maximum length reaches 53 cm, the wingspan is 96 cm, the length of one wing is 25 cm, and the weight of the bird is 400 g. The main color of this heron is white, only on the head and neck there are decorations of ocher-yellow feathers. This outfit becomes even more festive during the mating season. A beautiful crest of elongated orange-golden feathers appears on the bird's head. Separate strongly fluffed bright feathers appear on the back.


Egyptian herons live with other ankle birds in mixed colonies. Unlike other herons, this small, sophisticated bird is much less attached to water. She feels free in the fields, and in the meadows, and in the rice paddies, and even in cities, however, most often in African ones. A lot of these birds can be found in Cairo.

When nesting time comes, the female becomes the main “foreman”. It is she who organizes the construction of the nest, and the male supplies her with all the necessary material for this. In a clutch, there are from one to six eggs, which the parents incubate alternately. The chicks of the Egyptian heron are lucky with their parents, their lives will be protected at any cost, so the mortality rate of babies is very low. In the southernmost regions of their range, Egyptian herons manage to hatch up to three broods per year, in Russia, as a rule, only one. These birds start breeding at about two years of age.

In their diet, Egyptian herons prefer insects, but they will not refuse frogs, lizards, small rodents and even chicks of other small birds. The average lifespan of these birds is 15 years.

In the Red Book of Russia

The Egyptian heron is the only representative of its kind. It is a rare species in the periphery of its range. Although, for example, in Africa, the Egyptian heron is found everywhere and nothing threatens its numbers. This is not surprising, because it is there that her homeland is located.

Interesting fact

The entire existence of the Egyptian heron is closely related to the life of ungulates. It is not for nothing that its other name is cow heron, which in the English version sounds like cattle egret. On the territory of their entire range, these birds often keep close to ungulates, be they cows, buffaloes, bison, zebras and even rhinos. Herons collect insects and ticks from the backs of their herbivorous companions. They also feed on insects disturbed by large animals in the ground. If danger approaches, herons are the first to sound the alarm, including by the ungulates themselves.

In ancient Egypt, the phoenix was often depicted as a heron.


The Egyptian heron (Latin Bubulcus ibis) belongs to the Heron family (Ardeidae) from the Ciconiiformes order. During the 19th-20th centuries, it settled on all continents with the exception of Antarctica and is recognized as an invasive species in many countries. Lovers of ornithology contributed to its resettlement.

Birds often escaped from private collections, acclimatized in a new place and reproduced successfully.

Global warming and the innate passion of many populations to migrate in search of better living conditions also played a role in the expansion.

Today, the number of the species is estimated at 4-7 million individuals, and the area of ​​the range it occupies exceeds 10 million square kilometers,


The ancestral home of the Egyptian heron is considered the central regions of Africa, located south of the Sahara Desert. From the African savannas, she, along with cattle, gradually moved to the northwest and northeast of the continent, and from there to the islands of the Indian Ocean, to Southern Europe and Southeast Asia.

The first reports of her stay in Latin America date back to 1877. Half a century later, it has already occupied territories from Guyana to Canada. In the 50s of the last century, the bird was already seen on many islands in the Caribbean and in Australia.

In Europe, birds inhabit mainly the Iberian Peninsula. In recent years, they began to migrate from Spain and Portugal inland, reaching Germany and Switzerland.

In Ukraine, Egyptian herons are migrants and are occasionally observed in the south of the country in the lower reaches of the Dnieper. In Russia, they nest in small numbers in the lower reaches of the Volga and Terek.

In the temperate climate zone, birds make seasonal migrations for wintering. In the subtropics, their nomad camps are associated with precipitation. A number of populations sometimes use trade winds for transatlantic flights in both directions.

Despite living in various biotopes around the globe, taxonomists currently distinguish only two subspecies.

The nominative subspecies is distributed in Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the Middle East up to the Caspian Sea. He was also brought to the New World. The subspecies Bubulcus ibis coromandus lives in South and East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia and the adjacent Pacific islands.


Unlike many other related species, the Egyptian heron is not attached to water bodies. It does not feed on fish, but mainly on insects that it finds in fields and meadows. Birds often follow herds of ungulates, ridding them of pesky flies and parasitiform ticks from the order Ixodida.

They often sit on their backs and peck parasites right from their skin. Birds find their food in dry and humid areas, including wetlands. They are active during the day, but if necessary, they can hunt at dusk in the late evening.

Herons are sent to feed in small groups, which significantly increases the efficiency of hunting.

As social birds, they nest in colonies. Often they have to share nests with bald ibises (Geronticus calvus), white (Ardea alba), gray (Ardea cinerea) and black herons (Egretta ardesiaca).

The diet is dominated by horseflies (Tabanidae), flies (Diptera), mosquitoes (Culicidae), grasshoppers (Tettigonioidae), spiders (Araneae), tailless amphibians (Anura), small reptiles and mammals. In winter, the number of worms eaten increases on the menu. In South America, Egyptian herons have been spotted catching aga toads (Rhinella marina) on several occasions.


Sexual maturity occurs at the age of 2 years. Sexually mature birds form seasonal monogamous pairs, occasionally the male unites family ties with two females. The mating season begins in early spring. Breeding chicks in the northern hemisphere lasts from April to June.

Nests are located in tall trees and bushes near rivers and lakes, or in reeds.

They are built from brushwood and any available plant fragments. The male delivers the building material, and his wife is engaged in the construction of the nest. It takes her 6-7 days to do this. In the northern hemisphere, eggs are laid in April. In a clutch there are 4-5 white eggs with a bluish tint. The female lays them at intervals of 2 days. Both spouses incubate the clutch alternately. Incubation lasts from 22 to 26 days.

Chicks hatch asynchronously. For a week and a half, the mother warms the babies with the warmth of her body and only then leaves them alone. At the age of 3 weeks they leave the nest, and on the wing they become 25-35 days old.

In the tropics and subtropics, the female is able to breed offspring 2-3 times during the year.


The body length of adults is 48-52 cm with a wingspan of 90-100 cm. Weight is 300-400 g. The plumage is white. At the beginning of the mating season, pinkish, golden or brownish spots appear on the head, chest and back. The yellow-green area around the eyes changes to blue, and the beak turns reddish.

The lower limbs are light brown. The beak is about 6 cm long. Outside the breeding season, it is yellowish or brownish in color.

No pronounced sexual dimorphism is observed. Males are slightly slimmer and larger than females.

The Egyptian heron lives in natural conditions for 10-15 years. In captivity, she lives up to 20 years.


Latin name - Bubulcus ibis English name - Сattle egret, buff-backed heron Bird class - Aves Order - storks (Ciconiiformes) Family - herons (Ardeidae) Genus - Egyptian herons (Bubulcus)
There are 2 subspecies of the Egyptian heron, differing in details of plumage color and size: B.i.ibis and B.i. coromandus. The subspecies Biibis, described by K. Linnaeus in 1758 from specimens brought from Egypt (hence the Russian name for the bird), lives in the western part of the range - in Europe, Western Asia and Africa, and, starting from the middle of the 20th century, and on the American continent. The B.i.coromandus subspecies inhabits the eastern part of the range - India, Indochina, the Pacific Islands (from Japan to Australia). The name Bubulcus was given to this heron later (1855) and reflects the peculiarities of its behavior - to accompany herds of ungulates, both wild and domestic. The Latin word "bubulcus" is translated as "booopas" or "shepherd".

Cape hyrax

Cape hyrax is native to sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of Madagascar and the Congo Basin. It is also found in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, and Israel. Cape hyrax is an adaptive animal that can survive in tropical and desert climates if there is access to food and shelter.

He prefers to live in rocks or burrows of other animals, as he cannot dig his own hole. Damans feed on grass, fruits, insects, lizards and bird eggs. In Egypt, Cape hyraxes mostly live closer to the oases or along the banks of the Nile River.

View and person

The Egyptian heron often settles near a person's dwelling and is not afraid of his presence. Its presence next to grazing large animals was reflected in the name of the bird in many languages. For example, the English, German and Spanish names of the heron literally translate as "bird of a cow", "elephant bird", "rhinoceros bird". Human economic activities, in particular deforestation, drainage of swamps, and the development of cattle breeding, turned out to be favorable for the Egyptian heron. That is why she was able to expand her range so much, populating new climatic zones and even continents.
Although the Egyptian heron is favored by farmers as it helps control insect pests, locals often ravage its bustling colonies in populated areas. In a number of regions, changes in the hydrological regime after the construction of hydropower plants and irrigation systems also lead to negative consequences for Egyptian herons (for example, a sharp decrease in the level of Lake Sevan in Armenia by almost 20 m led to the drying up of a neighboring lake and the disappearance of many bird species, incl. and Egyptian herons). The use of pesticides in the fields also leads to the death of the Egyptian heron. Often, the Egyptian heron is used by humans for environmental biocontrol. Thus, studies in the Indian state of Kerala, where these birds often feed on garbage heaps, have shown that each heron eats 100-150 g of carrion and housefly larvae daily, thereby significantly reducing their numbers. Distribution and habitats. The Egyptian heron is known for its rapid expansion of its range. During the twentieth century, it spread across almost all continents (except Antarctica). The origin of the species is associated with areas of central Africa. In Europe, it originally nested only on the Iberian Peninsula and in the Volga delta; in Asia, its range stretched from Palestine to Indochina, in addition, it inhabits all the large islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. On the territory of the former Soviet Union, the Egyptian heron nests in the southern regions of Russia, in Armenia, in Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. In the countries of the New World, the Egyptian heron began to appear in the late 19th - early 20th centuries. At first these were separate flights, but gradually the herons began to nest. In the United States, the Egyptian heron first appeared in 1953, and in the 1970s, the population in the eastern part of the country alone numbered more than 400 thousand individuals. Egyptian herons began to settle in Australia around 1948, and now they are found in all coastal regions of Australia, and sometimes fly inland. In Europe, Egyptian herons began to settle in the middle of the twentieth century, now they regularly nest not only in Spain (the original nesting place), but also in France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Egyptian herons are less associated with water bodies than other heron species. However, when choosing habitats, they prefer more humid biotopes near freshwater bodies. The main natural habitats of the Egyptian heron are meadows, savannas and other open spaces with grassy vegetation and freshwater bodies of water.These herons often stay near grazing animals, thus obtaining food for themselves. Human changes in natural landscapes (deforestation and replacing them with pastures, the creation of irrigation systems, etc.) led to the fact that Egyptian herons successfully developed and settled these secondary landscapes. They only avoid continuous forests, high mountains, sea coasts and deserts.


The Egyptian Heron is a medium-sized stocky heron. It differs from other members of the family in a more dense constitution, massive head, relatively short neck and short beak. The color of the beak is bright orange with a reddish tint, which immediately distinguishes the Egyptian heron from other closely related species. Body length ranges from 46 to 56 cm, weight 340-390 g, wingspan 88-06 cm, males are slightly larger than females. In autumn, winter and spring, the plumage of adult Egyptian herons is pure white. During the nesting period, most birds develop patches of orange-yellow and ocher loose feathers on the crown, neck, back and craw. On the head, they form a small crest, more noticeable in males. After oviposition, the plumage of Egyptian herons turns pale. During the nesting period, the legs of birds are painted in yellow and orange tones, and after its end they darken and acquire a brown tint.

What does a whale head eat?

Photo: Kitoglav or royal heron

Whale heads spend most of their time foraging for food in the aquatic environment. The bulk of their carnivorous diet consists of wetland vertebrates.

Preferred prey types are assumed to include:

  • marble protopter (P. aethiopicus),
  • Senegalese polypiper (P. senegalus),
  • different types of tilapias,
  • catfish (Silurus).

Other prey eaten by this species include:

  • frogs,
  • water snakes,
  • Nile monitor lizards (V. niloticus),
  • small crocodiles,
  • small turtles,
  • snails,
  • rodents,
  • small waterfowl.

Given its huge, sharp-edged beak and wide mouth, the whale glider can hunt larger prey than other wading birds. The fish eaten by this species is usually 15 to 50 cm long and weighs about 500 g. The snakes that are hunted are usually 50 to 60 cm long. catfish and water snakes.

The main tactics used by whale beaks are "stand and wait" and "wander slowly." When a prey item is found, the head and neck of the bird quickly plunges into the water, causing the bird to lose balance and fall. After that, the whale head must restore balance and start again from a standing position.

Along with prey, particles of vegetation fall into the beak. To get rid of the green mass, the whale heads shake their heads from side to side, holding their prey. The prey is usually decapitated before swallowing. Also, a large beak is often used to pull out dirt at the bottom of a pond in order to extract fish hidden in holes.

Feeding and feeding behavior

The main food of the Egyptian heron is invertebrates, most often grasshoppers and dipterans (larvae and adult flies and horseflies). In addition, they eat dragonflies, water beetles, worms, spiders, bears, mollusks, and to a lesser extent frogs and small fish. In Africa, Egyptian herons usually accompany became buffaloes, zebras, large antelopes, elephants, rhinos and hippos. In the territories developed by man, these herons keep near domestic animals - horses and cows. Whenever possible, herons prefer the neighborhood of large animals moving at a speed of 5-10 steps / minute. They are much less common near smaller goats and sheep. Often, instead of animals, Egyptian herons accompany moving equipment - cars, tractors and even trains. Studies have shown that the hunting productivity of herons with the "participation" of large mammals is significantly higher than when hunting alone. Usually, herons walk or fly up near the heads or feet of grazing animals and catch the grasshoppers and other insects that they scared away. You can often see Egyptian herons sitting on the backs of elephants or zebras and looking out for prey from there. In this regard, a number of zoologists believe that herons peck out ticks and parasitic insects from the fur of animals, which makes their life much easier. It turns out a classic example of symbiosis (mutual benefit for both participants). However, other ornithologists believe that herons feed exclusively on the ground, do not peck out anything from the wool of mammals, but use the latter as a resting place and a means of transportation. One way or another, but the sight of an elephant or a hippopotamus with a heron on its back is a very characteristic picture of the African savannah.

The number of Egyptian herons

Since the Egyptian heron prefers to nest in large colonies, which in some places reach several hundred pairs, their number is numerous in certain areas. However, the narrow area of ​​distribution suggests that the total number of these birds in our country is extremely limited.

Egyptian herons are friends with buffaloes and often spend time on their backs.


Camels are one of the most famous animals native to Egypt. Camels are well known for their distinctive "humps", which are actually large fat deposits and are not filled with water at all, contrary to popular belief. They live an average of 40 to 50 years. These animals are well adapted for life in deserts, as they can do without water for several days.

Range of Egyptian herons

This small bird occupies vast territories of the Iberian Peninsula, Africa, Madagascar, Arabia, Syria, northern Iran, the lowlands of the Caucasus, India, China and Japan. It is found in valleys near the banks of large and medium-sized rivers, in swamps, rice fields and reservoirs. Egyptian herons overwinter in Africa.

Egyptian herons feed in groups and breed in colonies with neighboring birds.

Birds nest in small groups in copses and groves, in meadows and swamps, on the shores of lakes and rivers in open areas. During the breeding season, the Egyptian heron does not shy away from the neighborhood with people, and can nest right in settlements.

Eating Egyptian herons

Insects are the main food of these birds. Everyone is used to the fact that herons love to feast on frogs, but it is the Egyptian herons that prefer grasshoppers, locusts, dragonflies, horseflies, water beetles and their larvae, spiders and mollusks. To a lesser extent, they hunt frogs.

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