Purple Heron | Ardea purpurea

Robert's Birding Information: The Purple Heron

The Purple Heron is a Southern African bird that belongs to the Ardeidae bird family group which includes birds such as Egrets, Herons, Bitterns.Purple Heron

The description for the Purple Heron (Latin name Ardea purpurea) can be found in the 7th Edition of the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. The Ardea purpurea can be quickly identified by its unique Roberts identification number of 65 and the detailed description of this bird is on page 591. You will find a picture of the Purple Heron on page 592.

NOTE: The reference for the information following is "Roberts Birds of Southern Africa", 7th Edition*. This edition contained a number of taxonomic changes as well as changes to English names used traditionally and in earlier editions of most bird books in South Africa. The following paragraph notes such changes if any.

There have been no changes in the common name between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition. There have been no changes in the Latin name for the Purple Heron between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition.

The Purple Heron is known in Afrikaans as Rooireier.

The Purple Heron has a height of 90 cms and weighs around 525 gms. The head is coloured brown while the bill is coloured grey. The Ardea purpurea has a brown, black coloured throat, black legs and a brown coloured back. The eyes are orange.

Take note of the bird's main distinguishing features such as colour, size and leg length relative to the body size of the bird. Colours of a bird's body parts can be helpful. Be aware what may appear brown to one person is described in Roberts Birds using some other word ... for example brown, black. See colours used in Roberts.

Head is brown.

Eyes are orange.

Bill is grey.

Legs are black.

Throat is brown, black.

Back is brown.

Photo's & Differentiating Between Male, Female & Juveniles

Please click the images below to make them larger:

Male Adult Adult Purple Heron in South Africa
Female Adult Same as above.
Juvenile Juvenile Purple Heron in South Africa
Non Breeding Plumage N/A

Purple Heron Feeding Habits ...

This bird forages for food on the ground.

This bird has a specially adapted bill which helps it hunt for fish, crabs, shrimp and other aquatic animals in the water.

This bird eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants. These invertebrates are usually hawked aerially, killed and then eaten.

Purple Heron Breeding, Habitat and Nesting Habits ...

The Purple Heron is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 3 to 6 eggs and they are coloured green.

The nest is built high up in the tree canopy and is protected from predators by branches and the dense green foliage.

The bird builds its nest on the ground with figs, straw and leaves. The nest is placed under a bush to protect the young from predators.

The Purple Heron is found in the Southern African wetlands, riverine forests and moist grasslands.

The bird is at home in riverine forests and close to water bodies such as lakes, dams and streams.

Seen in Flocks, Singles or Pairs Normally ...

The Purple Heron is mainly seen singly or in pairs in the wild.

This bird is usually seen in small family groups or in large flocks.