Bitterns, Herons, Egrets

Black Bittern

An extremely dark, medium-sized heron with a bold yellow neck stripe. The male’s upperparts are dull black, while the female’s are browner; below white-streaked rufous and black and grey belly. The immature is more streaked and the upperpart feathers have buff fringes.

Cinnamon Bittern

A small heron that is overall cinnamon-rufous in colour. The male is brighter with a rather pale throat and underparts. The female has a browner crown and mantle and a noticeably streaked neck, while the immature is even darker and more boldly streaked. Appears larger, plainer and more roundedwinged than the Yellow in flight.

Yellow Bittern

A small heron very similar to the Little but with a beige-brown back, black flight feathers, tail and crown that act as a contrast to the buff body. Rear neck is darker, and foreneck whiter with faint streaking. Female and immature have more rufous coloured streaking.

Striated Heron

Sexes alike. A grey, black and dark metallic green heron. Slaty-grey above, with a glossy green wash; white cheeks; very dark green forehead, crown, longish crest; grey head, neck; glossy green, grey and white in wings; white chin, centre of throat; ashy-grey below. Solitary, shy and sluggish; mostly crepuscular and nocturnal; sits patiently near water.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Short, thick-set heron with stout black bill; adult has black crown, mantle, scapulars; short white supercilium and forehead; white to pale grey underparts;  pearl grey wings; two long, white, nape plumes when breeding; large, ruby red eyes; in flight, broad, rounded, grey wings, with dark back and short, thick neck diagnostic; juvenile brown, streaked and spotted buff-white above, buff, streaked with brown below; solitary or in scattered flocks when feeding; communal diurnal rooster and breeder; often near habitation; crepuscular and nocturnal.

Intermediate Egret

Medium-sized white egret variable in size and difficult to tell apart from Great, except for shorter, thicker, less curved neck; shorter, finer bill; shorter, less extensive gape; breeding bird has breast and tail plumes, crest, but no head plumes; black bill, legs, feet; yellow-green facial skin; non-breeding bird has yellow bill; black, rather than yellow feet, yellow bill of nonbreeding bird, and larger size distinguish it from Little; somewhat gregarious; small scattered or mixed  hunting flocks; colonial breeder.

Great Egret

Largest of the region’s white egrets; long-legged and very long-necked; can be told from Intermediate and other egrets by size, leaner, lankier appearance, and distinct bend in the neck; long gape extends beyond eye; breeding adult has short breast plumes, longer, finer plumes on back; black bill, blue facial skin; reddish upper legs; non-breeding bill yellow, no plumes; heavier, slower flight than Intermediate; solitary; not very gregarious; occasionally with other egrets; communal rooster and breeder.

Grey Heron

Sexes alike. A long-legged, long-necked bird of open marshes. Ashygrey above; white crown, neck and underparts; black stripe after eye continues as long, black crest; blackdotted band down centre of foreneck; dark blue-black flight feathers; golden-yellow iris at close range. Mostly solitary except when breeding; occasionally enters shallow water; usually stands motionless, head pulled in between shoulders, waiting for prey to come close; characteristic flight, with head pulled back and long legs trailing.

Indian Pond Heron

Sexes alike. A small heron, commonest of family in India; thick-set and earthybrown in colour, with dull green legs; bill bluish at base, yellowish at centre  with black tip; neck and legs shorter than in true egrets. Difficult to sight when settled; suddenly springs to notice with a flash of white wings, tail and rump. Breeding: buffy-brown head and neck; white chin and upper throat, longish crest; rich maroon back; buff-brown breast. Non-breeding: streaked dark brown head and neck; grey-brown back and shoulders; more white in plumage. Found around water, even dirty roadside puddles; ubiquitous in the plains; found in  hills up to 1,200m; remains motionless in mud or up to ankles in water, or slowly stalks prey. Hunts alone; roosts in groups with other pond herons and occasionally crows.

Purple Heron

Sexes alike. A slendernecked, lanky bird. Slaty-purple above; black crown with long, drooping crest; rufous neck with prominent black stripe along its length; white chin and throat; deep slaty and chestnut below breast; almost black on wings and tail; crest and breast plumes less developed in female. Solitary; crepuscular; extremely shy but master of patience; freezes and hides amidst marsh reeds; when flushed, flies with neck outstretched. Active in early mornings.