Malagasy Pond Heron (Ardeola idea)

Malagasy Pond Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardeola idea | [authority] Hartlaub, 1860 | [UK] Malagasy Pond Heron | [FR] Crabier blanc | [DE] Dickschnabel-Reiher | [ES] Garcilla malgache | [NL] Madagaskar-Ralreiger


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Ardeola idae AF Madagascar, Aldabra Island


Ardeola is a genus of small herons, typically 40?50 cm long with 80?100 cm wingspan. Most breed in the tropical Old World, but the migratory Squacco Heron occurs in southern Europe and the Middle East and winters in Africa. These pond herons are stocky species with a short neck, short thick bill, typically buff or brownish back, and coloured or streaked foreneck and breast. In summer, adults may have long neck feathers. Ardeola herons are transformed in flight, looking very white due to the brilliant white wings.

Physical charateristics

Small white heron. Breeding plumage all white, with long crest and scapular plumes. Blue bill and bare orbital skin, former with dark tip. Reddish legs. In non-breeding plumage, dark brown on crown and streaked dark brownish on mantle and underparts. Similar spp. In breeding plumage, easily distinguished from other white herons by short reddish legs and blue bill. In non-breeding plumage, from Squacco Heron A. ralloides by dark crown and streaky upperparts

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 45 cm size max.: 48 cm
incubation min.: 18 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 13 days fledging max.: 17 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Africa : Madagascar, Aldabra Island. Ardeola idae breeds on Madagascar (2000-6000 individuals), Aldabra (100 breeding pairs) in the Seychelles, and Europa (to Reunion, to France). It has a large non-breeding range in Central and East Africa including the Comoro Islands, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is present almost throughout Madagascar, but is always uncommon.


It principally inhabits freshwater wetlands, particularly shallow waterbodies fringed with vegetation and adjacent trees. In its Madagascan breeding range it occurs in grassy marshes, small lakes, ponds, ditches and rice fields, usually near trees and bushes, although it has been recorded nesting on islands where trees are scarce. In Aldabra it uses mangroves, inland pools and lagoon shores, and is occasionally found to inhabit areas away from water. In its non-breeding range it is commonly found along the banks of small streams, including those inside forest. It is also found on rice paddies, and more rarely in mangroves and on the seashore.


It nests in trees and bushes in or near to marshes, lakes or ponds. In Aldabra it also nests in mangroves. The nest is bulky and constructed of twigs. It tends to be placed 0.5-4m above the ground, and when the species occurs in a mixed colony with A. ralloides, it occupies the higher nesting sites. Usually 3 eggs are laid which are incubated for about 3 weeks. The young remain in the nest for another 2 weeks before fledging and are able to feed on their own after 4 weeks. Might have a second brood.

Feeding habits

It feeds on fish, insects and small invertebrates, as well as frogs and small reptiles including skinks (Scincidae) and geckos (Gekkonidae)

Video Malagasy Pond Heron


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small population which is undergoing a continuing decline because many of its breeding colonies are heavily and increasingly exploited for eggs and young. This exploitation is exacerbated by pressures on its wetland habitats.
The principal threat for this species is thought to be habitat loss as a result of the clearing, drainage and conversion of wetland habitats to rice fields. Exploitation of eggs and young is heavy at many breeding sites and appears to be increasing in intensity. The introduced fish Micropterus salmoides may compete for food
Malagasy Pond Heron status Endangered


Migrates to C and E Africa; a few birds remain in Madagascar, but away from breeding grounds; relatively common at such sites, May-Oct. First year birds apparently stay in Africa during breeding season. Vagrant to Comoros Is and Seychelles.

Distribution map

Malagasy Pond Heron distribution range map

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