Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Squacco Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardeola ralloides | [authority] Scopoli, 1769 | [UK] Squacco Heron | [FR] Crabier chevelu | [DE] Rallenreiher | [ES] Garcilla Cangrejera | [NL] Ralreiger


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Ardeola ralloides EU, AF widespread


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

Squacco Heron has overall dark buff or pale brown plumage. Its greyish bill becomes turquoise blue in breeding season. Legs are orange. It has outstanding head with many brown and white feathers. In flight, it seems very different, with dominant white colour.

Listen to the sound of Squacco Heron

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/CICONIIFORMES/Ardeidae/sounds/Squacco Heron.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 71 cm wingspan max.: 86 cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 49 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 41 days fledging max.: 24 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia, Africa : widespread


Breeds in dense reed-beds of fresh and brackish water-bodies or flooded bushes of river-valleys. Ardeola ralloides always joins other Ciconiiformes colonies, ocupying the outer ranges of them.


Arrival – April-early May (usually between 13 April – 2 May). Breeding starts in mid June, sometimes late May. Hatching is in early July. Autumn migration starts early – from late August to mid September. Some birds may stay till the end of September. Breeds always colonially, together with larger herons and Glossy Ibis. Due to late breeding, this heron has to settle on the periphery of the colonies, thus increasing the risk of predation. Clutch size varies from 3 to 5 eggs, breeding success depends upon the disturbance level nearby. If not disturbed, birds usually breed successfully. The heron preys in open or slightly vegetated shallow water-bodies, watching mobile and searching for immobile food items. Its diet consists mostly of molluscs, insects and their larvae, small copepods, spiders and leeches. A rare visitor to farmland and garden-plots in the river valleys, where it may prey upon invertebrates after rains.

Feeding habits

Frogs are the favourite prey of Squacco Heron, but it also feeds on insects and fish.
It feeds along brooks and close to marshy waters, near cover. It adopts a horizontal posture when fishing.

Video Squacco Heron


copyright: youtube


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not 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.
Ardeola ralloides is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to much of
southern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range.
Its European breeding population is relatively small (<27,000 pairs), and underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although most populations-notably sizeable ones in Romania and Azerbaijan-were stable or increased during 1990-2000, other significant populations in Turkey and Russia declined, and the species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
This small heron inhabits the swamps of south-western Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula to Kazahkstan, and a large part of Africa. European populations winter in Sub-Saharan Africa. The total population of the European Union amounted to about 1600 breeding pairs in 1995, and seemed to decline in most countries
Squacco Heron status Least Concern


Palearctic populations migratory and dispersive: in Europe, post-breeding dispersal of juveniles from Jul, with birds moving on to winter quarters in Aug-Nov; return to colonies in Apr-May, some birds overshooting (see page 395). African populations mostly sedentary with some local movements; birds from Madagascar regularly cross over to Africa. Accidental from Azores to Cape Verde Is, Seychelles, and recently Brazil.

Distribution map

Squacco Heron distribution range map

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