Squacco Heron

Ardeola ralloides

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In Europe, the squacco heron, barely 50 cm long, belongs to the group of smaller and more compactly-built herons. It has an inconspicuous, brown ochre-coloured plumage with a white belly. The white wings and black tail feathers are clearly recognisable when the heron is in flight. It has noticeable long neck feathers when in summer breeding plumage; its bill is a blueish colour and it has red legs. The basic plumage of both sexes is a green yellow colour. Squacco herons prefer wetlands with still and slow flowing water and dense riverbed vegetation, as well as bushes and trees. In Asia, they are commonly found in rice fields. Outside the mating season, they can only be observed in maritime climates. The majority of squacco heron populations are long-distance migratory birds. Their breeding grounds are found in southern and Southeast Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Rare visitors to Germany, they are only occasionally spotted on stopovers here. Squacco herons live alone or in small groups. They breed in colonies, often alongside night herons, little egrets, cormorants and ibises. These birds are crepuscular and generally ambush ("sit-an-wait") predators in and around water. Sometimes they can be seen chasing their prey across meadows. They subsist on water insects, frogs, fish, amphibians, snails and other small animals.

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