Alice Springs Desert Park

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A pale blue-grey in colour, the White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) is one of the most common herons to be found in Australia. A medium-sized heron, with yellowish legs, the forehead, crown, chin and upper throat are white, although the crown can be variable.

The area between the eye and bill (the lores) are usually black, with the beak being grey to black (pale grey at the base). The iris can vary between individuals being grey, green, or dull yellow to a cinnamon brown.

They are found in a number of different wetland habitats, stretching from the coastline, including rock pools, mudflats, estuaries and saltmarsh, along rivers, waterholes, sewerage ponds and farm dams. They are also found in the arid regions of Australia, where there is water.

They feed on a wide variety of prey, including fish, crustaceans, amphibians and insects. They are one of those birds that have been known to help themselves to fishes from suburban fish ponds.

In the breeding season, the White-faced Heron have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back. They often have a reddish colour on the underparts.

Images © Greg Sully

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  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Genus: Egretta
  • Species: E. novaehollandiae
  • Binomial name: Egretta novaehollandiae
  • Synonyms:
    • Ardea novaehollandiae
    • Notophoyx novaehollandiae

Footnote & References

  1. White-faced Heron, Birdlife Australia,