White-faced heron.
White-faced heron.

The most common heron in Australia

THE white-faced heron loves wetlands, creeks, estuaries and mudflats and is the most common heron in Australia.

It is mostly light blue-grey in colour with a characteristic white face, a long, slim neck and a pointed, grey-black bill.

The legs are long and dull yellow in colour, with both sexes being similar.

It feeds on a wide variety of prey, including fish, insects and amphibians.

Food is obtained in a variety of ways, such as walking and disturbing prey, using its foot to stir up mud or simply standing in the water and watching for movement.

Its long bill can be used to spear fish or pick insects from the water. It will also be seen feeding with ibis to take advantage of any food that is found.

When flying, they have a very slow and graceful wing beat and often travel with the neck outstretched and the feet trailing behind.

When breeding, the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back, as in the photo.

They build a very untidy nest of sticks on the branch of a tree and lay up to five eggs.

The chicks are very demanding and the parents have to work hard to feed them.

The best places to see them are Police Creek, Tondoon ­Botanic Gardens and Gladstone ­Marina Parklands.

Social distancing and the requirement to stay home as much as possible is limiting our movements, so it may be an opportunity to get to know the birds in your garden.

Send me a photo or a description if you are not sure what species you see. abriggs@irock.com.au