Humblots Heron (Ardea humbloti)

Humblots Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardea humbloti | [authority] Milne-Edwards and Grandidier, 1885 | [UK] Humblots Heron | [FR] Heron de Humblot | [DE] Madagaskarreiher | [ES] Garza Malgache | [NL] Madagaskarreiger


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Ardea humbloti AF Madagascar


Best known of the typical herons are the very large, long-legged and long-necked, plain-hued, crested members of the genus Ardea The species of the Ardeidae (heron) family are mainly tropical birds, but they have spread out all over the world and occupy all but extremely high latitudes and elevation. Most members of this almost worldwide group breed colonially in trees, building large stick nests. Northern species such as Great Blue, Grey and Purple Herons may migrate south in winter, although the first two do so only from areas where the waters freeze. These are powerful birds with large spear-like bills, long necks and long legs, which hunt by waiting motionless or stalking their prey in shallow water before seizing it with a sudden lunge. They have a slow steady flight, with the neck retracted as is characteristic of herons and bitterns; this distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which extend their necks

Physical charateristics

Large, solitary heron. Upperparts mostly mid-grey, with darker cap, cheeks and flight feathers. Massive, pale straw-coloured bill, tending to orange in breeding season. Paler grey underparts, pale flesh or greyish legs and feet. Similar spp. From Grey Heron A. cinerea and Purple Heron A. purpurea by solid dark cap, uniform grey plumage lacking white or rufous, and more massive bill.

Listen to the sound of Humblots Heron

[audio: Heron.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 92 cm size max.: 100 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Africa : Madagascar. humbloti breeds only in Madagascar but is also recorded as a vagrant from the Comoro Islands and Mayotte (to France)


The species prefers coastal areas (including coral islets, mangroves, tidal mud flats and estuaries) but also frequents freshwater lakes (particularly those that persist through the dry season and are in close proximity to other lakes), rivers and, more rarely, rice-paddies.


breeds mainly in small groups of a few pairs in mixed species colonies but also solitarily. Various independent observations suggest that nesting takes place year-round. There are observations of grey heron Ardea cinerea and A. humbloti chicks occupying the same nests; though there is no evidence of mixed pairings or hybridisation, and this interaction between the two species is not understood. It nests in tree-tops or hollows in rocks, and has also been reported to nest on the ground. Its clutch-size is three.

Feeding habits

It forages in clear, shallow waters and among floating vegetation. Habitat suitability depends on water clarity, shoreline areas with shallow water and the availability of large fish. It feeds chiefly on medium to large fish (up to 20cm), eel and crustaceans.

Video Humblots Heron


copyright: Martin Kennewell


This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small population which is undergoing continuing declines owing to overexploitation and loss and degradation of its wetland habitats.
Natural wetlands have been degraded by modification and conversion for human use, particularly for rice cultivation, and by siltation as a result of watershed deforestation. The former wetlands of the central highlands may once have been important refuges for immature birds. At the nest it is especially vulnerable to disturbance, egg-collection and the capture of nestlings by local villagers for food. These pressures are likely to reduce its numbers as the human population of western Madagascar continues to increase. Cutting of nesting-trees can also be a significant threat, e.g. at Manambolomaty Ramsar Site where this has caused an alarming decline over the last 10 years. Wetlands in Madagascar have long been in decline as the climate has become progressively drier, and this has been compounded by the degradation of wetlands. The depletion of fish stocks by local fisheries is a potential threat.
Humblots Heron status Endangered


There is no evidence of migration in this species, but it is prone to long-distance wandering in search of suitable habitat

Distribution map

Humblots Heron distribution range map

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