White-necked Heron (Ardea pacifica)

White-necked Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ardea pacifica | [authority] Latham, 1801 | [UK] White-necked Heron | [FR] Heron a tete blanche | [DE] Weisshals-Reiher | [ES] Garza cuelliblanca | [NL] Withalsreiger


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Ardea pacifica AU Australia, s New Guinea


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

The White-necked Heron is a large heron with a white head and a long white neck with a double line of black spots running down the front. The upperparts of the body are slate-black, with plum-coloured nuptial plumes on the back and breast during the breeding season. Underparts are grey streaked with white. The bill is black, the naked facial skin is is blue or yellow, the eyes are green, and the legs and feet are black. The White-necked Heron is sometimes known as the Pacific Heron.

wingspan min.: 147 cm wingspan max.: 160 cm
size min.: 76 cm size max.: 106 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 42 days fledging max.: 50 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 6  


Australasia : Australia, South New Guinea. The White-necked Heron (Ardea pacifica) is natural to Australia and Tasmania. Some individuals make it to New Guinea and others to New Zealand.


Although White-necked Herons are sometimes seen in tidal areas, most are found in shallow fresh waters, including farm dams, flooded pastures, claypans, and even roadside ditches


White-necked Herons will breed in any month of the year in response to good rain, but most breeding occurs between September and December. The nest is a loose platform in a living tree such as a river red gum near or over water. The nests may be solitary or in loose colonies. Eggs are incubated by both parents. The clutch size is 2-6 eggs which are incubated for about a month. The young fledge after 6-7 weeks.

Feeding habits

White-necked Herons feed by wading in shallow water or stalking through wet grass looking for fish, amphibians, crustaceans and insects.

Video White-necked Heron


copyright: Eldert Groenewoud


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 appears to be fluctuating, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable 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.
White-necked Heron status Least Concern


Nomadic , moves about exploiting seasonality of Australian wetlands. Normally found along coast during dry season, moving to wetlands of interior during or after rains. Exceptional rainfall in arid areas can lead to irruptions, e.g. 1974 in SE Australia, 1975 in SW Australia and Tasmania, and 1978 and 1979 in E Australia; unusually abundant in Irivan Jaya (W New Guinea) in 1978/79. Vagrant to New Zealand, Norfolk I and Tristan da Cunha.

Distribution map

White-necked Heron distribution range map

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