Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Purple heron

Thai: นกกระสาแดง, nok kra-saa daeng

Binomial name: Ardea purpurea, Carolus Linnaeus, 1766

Not to be confused with the reddish egret.

The purple heron (Ardea purpurea) is a wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, spending winter in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia. It is a rare but regular wanderer north of its breeding range.

Description

The purple heron is a large bird, 78 - 97 cm in length with a standing height from 70 to 94 cm and a 120 – 152 cm wingspan. However, it is slender for its size, weighing only 0.5 - 1.35 kg. It is somewhat smaller than the grey heron, from which it can be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. It has a narrower yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. The most similarly-coloured heron is the Goliath heron, which is considerably larger.

Behaviour

The purple heron breeds in colonies in reed beds or trees close to large lakes or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest.

It feeds in shallow water, spearing fish, frogs, insects, spiders, small birds, rodents, salamanders, and snakes. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. It tends to keep within reed beds more than the grey heron, and is often inconspicuous, despite its size.

It has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The long neck of the purple heron looks particularly snake-like, with more of an S-shape in flight. The call is a loud croaking "krek".

The purple heron is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Pelecaniformes
Family
Ardeidae
Genus
Ardea
Species
Ardea purpurea

Common names

  • Thai: นกกระสาแดง, nok kra-saa daeng

Subspecies

  • Ardea purpurea bournei, René de Naurois, 1966

    Range: Bourne's heron. Found in the Cape Verde Islands (included in purpurea by some authors, but treated as a distinct species Ardea bournei by some others).

  • Ardea purpurea madagascariensis, Eduard Daniel van Oort, 1910

    Range: Madagascar

  • Ardea purpurea manilensis, Franz Julius Ferdinand Meyen, 1834

    Range: Asia from Pakistan east to the Philippines and Indonesia, and north to Primorsky Krai, Russia.

  • Ardea purpurea purpurea (nominate), Carolus Linnaeus, 1766

    Range: Africa, Europe north to the Netherlands, and southwestern Asia east to Kazakhstan.

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Purple heron, Ardea purpurea in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ban Laem District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Phai District, Khon Kaen
  • Ban Phraek District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Ban Sang District, Prachinburi
  • Bang Ban District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Len District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Bang Pa In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pahan District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pakong District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Phra Non-hunting Area
  • Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  • Bang Saphan Noi District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Bangkok Province
  • Borabue District, Maha Sarakham
  • Bueng Boraped Non-hunting Area
  • Bueng Khong Long Non-hunting Area
  • Cha-Am District, Phetchaburi
  • Chaiyo District, Ang Thong
  • Chatturat District, Chaiyaphum
  • Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Doi Lo District, Chiang Mai
  • Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
  • Hat Yai District, Songkhla
  • Huai Chorakhe Mak Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Huai Talat Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Kabin Buri District, Prachinburi
  • Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kamphaeng Saen District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Kanthararom District, Sisaket
  • Kantharawichai District, Maha Sarakham
  • Khanom District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khao Luang National Park
  • Khao Nang Panthurat Forest Park
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Khlong Luang District, Pathum Thani
  • Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung
  • Khun Chae National Park
  • Khura Buri District, Phang Nga
  • Klaeng District, Rayong
  • Ko Samui District, Surat Thani
  • Ko Sichang District, Chonburi
  • Kumphawapi District, Udon Thani
  • Kut Thing Non-hunting Area
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Mae Ai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Tha, Lampang District, Lampang
  • Mu Ko Surin National Park
  • Mueang Buriram District, Buriram
  • Mueang Chachoengsao District, Chachoengsao
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Chumphon District, Chumphon
  • Mueang Kanchanaburi District, Kanchanaburi
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Lopburi District, Lopburi
  • Mueang Nakhon Nayok District, Nakhon Nayok
  • Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Mueang Nakhon Si Thammarat District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Mueang Nonthaburi District, Nonthaburi
  • Mueang Pattani District, Pattani
  • Mueang Phang Nga District, Phang Nga
  • Mueang Phayao District, Phayao
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Phichit District, Phichit
  • Mueang Phitsanulok District, Phitsanulok
  • Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
  • Mueang Ratchaburi District, Ratchaburi
  • Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon
  • Mueang Samut Songkhram District, Samut Songkhram
  • Mueang Saraburi District, Saraburi
  • Mueang Songkhla District, Songkhla
  • Mueang Sukhothai District, Sukhothai
  • Mueang Suphanburi District, Suphan Buri
  • Mueang Surat Thani District, Surat Thani
  • Mueang Tak District, Tak
  • Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani
  • Mueang Uttaradit District, Uttaradit
  • Non Thai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting Area
  • Nong Han Lake
  • Nong Plak Phra Ya – Khao Raya Bangsa Non-hunting
  • Nong Prue District, Kanchanaburi
  • Nong Song Hong District, Khon Kaen
  • Nong Suea District, Pathum Thani
  • Nong Ya Plong District, Phetchaburi
  • Nong Yai Area Development Project Under Royal Init
  • Pa Sak Chonlasit Dam Non-hunting Area
  • Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Pak Khat District, Bueng Kan
  • Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Pak Phli District, Nakhon Nayok
  • Pak Thale
  • Pak Tho District, Ratchaburi
  • Phaisali District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Phanat Nikhom District, Chonburi
  • Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Phra Phrom District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Phutthamonthon District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Pran Buri District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Pran Buri Forest Park
  • Rattanawapi District, Nong Khai
  • Sai Noi District, Nonthaburi
  • Samut Prakan Province
  • San Sai District, Chiang Mai
  • Sanam Bin Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Sathing Phra District, Songkhla
  • Satuek District, Buriram
  • Sirinat National Park
  • Taphan Hin District, Phichit
  • Tha Sala District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thalang District, Phuket
  • Thale Ban National Park
  • Thale Noi Non-hunting Area
  • Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani
  • Thap Lan National Park
  • Thawat Buri District, Roi Et
  • Wang Chan District, Rayong
  • Wang Noi District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Wat Phai Lom & Wat Ampu Wararam Non-hunting Area
  • Wiang Chai District, Chiang Rai

Range map of Ardea purpurea in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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