[order] Ciconiiformes | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardeola ralloides | [UK] Squacco Heron | [FR] Crabier chevelu | [DE] Rallenreiher | [ES] Garcilla Cangrejera | [IT] Sgarza ciuffetto | [NL] Ralreiger

Ralreiger determination

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Squacco Heron has overall dark buff or pale brown plumage. Its greyish bill becomes turquoise blue in breeding season. Legs are orange. It has outstanding head with many brown and white feathers. In flight, it seems very different, with dominant white colour.

Breeds in dense reed-beds of fresh and brackish water-bodies or flooded bushes of river-valleys. Ardeola ralloides always joins other Ciconiiformes colonies, ocupying the outer ranges of them.

Ardeola ralloides is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to much of southern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (<27,000 pairs), and underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although most populations-notably sizeable ones in Romania and Azerbaijan-were stable or increased during 1990-2000, other significant populations in Turkey and Russia declined, and the species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
This small heron inhabits the swamps of south-western Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula to Kazahkstan, and a large part of Africa. European populations winter in Sub-Saharan Africa. The total population of the European Union amounted to about 1600 breeding pairs in 1995, and seemed to decline in most countries

Frogs are the favourite prey of Squacco Heron, but it also feeds on insects and fish. It feeds along brooks and close to marshy waters, near cover. It adopts a horizontal posture when fishing.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 kmē. It has a large global population estimated to be 170,000-680,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Arrival - April-early May (usually between 13 April - 2 May). Breeding starts in mid June, sometimes late May. Hatching is in early July. Autumn migration starts early - from late August to mid September. Some birds may stay till the end of September. Breeds always colonially, together with larger herons and Glossy Ibis. Due to late breeding, this heron has to settle on the periphery of the colonies, thus increasing the risk of predation. Clutch size varies from 3 to 5 eggs, breeding success depends upon the disturbance level nearby. If not disturbed, birds usually breed successfully. The heron preys in open or slightly vegetated shallow water-bodies, watching mobile and searching for immobile food items. Its diet consists mostly of molluscs, insects and their larvae, small copepods, spiders and leeches. A rare visitor to farmland and garden-plots in the river valleys, where it may prey upon invertebrates after rains.

Palearctic populations migratory and dispersive: in Europe, post-breeding dispersal of juveniles from Jul, with birds moving on to winter quarters in Aug-Nov; return to colonies in Apr-May, some birds overshooting (see page 395). African populations mostly sedentary with some local movements; birds from Madagascar regularly cross over to Africa. Accidental from Azores to Cape Verde Is, Seychelles, and recently Brazil.