Rufous-bellied Heron (Ardeola rufiventris)

Rufous-bellied Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardeola rufiventris | [authority] Sundevall, 1851 | [UK] Rufous-bellied Heron | [FR] Heron a ventre roux | [DE] Rotbauch-Reiher | [ES] Garcilla Ventrirroja | [NL] Roodbuikreiger


Monotypic species


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

The Rufous-bellied Heron has a height of 39 cms and weighs around 300 gms. The head is coloured grey while the bill is coloured yellow. The Ardeola rufiventris has a grey coloured throat, yellow legs and a grey coloured back. The eyes are yellow. The female is duller and has a streaked throat and foreneck.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 36 cm size max.: 40 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 24 days fledging max.: 32 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Africa : East, Central.Its range goes from southern Uganda and Kenya through to eastern South Africa with its western range covering Angola, N Namibia and N Botswana.


The species inhabits seasonally flooded grasslands, marshes, flood-plains and inland deltas (such as the Okavango Delta), shallow water along riverbanks and lake shores, stands of papyrus, reedbeds1 and rice-fields.


The nest is a small platform of vegetation positioned low down in reeds, trees or shrubs that are usually standing in water. It usually nests on the periphery of mixed-species colonies. The species nests colonially with other species, typically in small groups of 6-30 pairs, although groups of 60-80 pairs have been reported at Lake Bangweulu, Zambia. The Rufous-bellied Heron is monogamous unless its mate dies. Clutch size is 2 to 5, the young fledge afer 3 to 4 weeks.

Feeding habits

The species feeds diurnally, and sometimes nocturnally, alone or in small flocks of up to five individuals, exceptionally more than 12. Its diet consists of small fish (Tilapia and Barbus), frogs, crustaceans, aquatic insects and worms.

Video Rufous-bellied Heron


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Rufous-bellied Heron status Least Concern


This species is mainly sedentary, although it may make partial migratory movements in relation to seasonal flooding of river flood-plains

Distribution map

Rufous-bellied Heron distribution range map

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