Take Off

Take Off

The Herons of Lake Panic

One of the most productive birding sites in the Kruger National Park is the bird hide at Lake Panic, situated close to the Skukuza Rest Camp. A visit to the hide will nearly always be fruitful for birders and photographers alike. The photographers are, almost without exception, treated to the most wonderful fly-pasts of the Herons, providing excellent bird-in-flight opportunities.

Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala

The black-headed heron is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae, common throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. It is mainly resident, but some west African birds move further north in the rainy season.

This species usually breeds in the wet season in colonies in trees, reedbeds or cliffs. It builds a bulky stick nest, and lays 2–4 eggs.

It often feeds in shallow water, spearing fish or frogs with its long, sharp bill. It will also hunt well away from water, taking large insects, small mammals, and birds. It will wait motionless for its prey, or slowly stalk its victim.

The black-headed heron is a large bird, standing 85 cm tall, and it has a 150 cm wingspan. It is nearly as large as the grey heron, which it resembles in appearance, although it is generally darker. Its plumage is largely grey above, and paler grey below. It has a powerful dusky bill. The flight is slow, with the neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The white underwing coverts are striking in flight.

This image was captured at Lake Panic, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

View this and similar images on my Flickr site — Duncan’s Flickr Page

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