Purple Heron

Ardea purpureaLinnaeus, 1766

Order Ciconiiformes

Family Ardeidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [C], BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, BoC-II, ESC-Spec 3, BD-I.

General distribution. An Indo-African species that breeds in the Pyrenean peninsula, in France, Germany, Italy, the Balkan peninsula, Southwestern Russia, Kazakhstan, Hindustan, Indochina, Indonesia, Mozambique, Angola, Madagascar. It winters in Egypt, the Arab peninsula, Africa to the south of Sahara, Madagascar, Hindustan, Southeastern Asia.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor, in the past common only in the water basins near the Danube and the Black Sea. Rare in the valleys of the large internal rivers [1, 2]. In recent years it has mainly been breeding in marshes and lakes along the Danube banks and the Black Sea coast, in the Sofia field and at places in the valleys of the rivers Maritsa, Tundzha and Struma with a total of 54 breeding places [3], most of which are in need of confirmation. Rare throughout the country: in most habitats under 5 breeding pairs are found [3]. The numbers according to different authors are estimated rather freely: 75 [4], 100 [5], 120 [6]; 50-200 [7], 150-250 breeding pairs [3].

Habitats. Open, mainly standing, freshwater basins with thick marshy vegetation of reed and rush; riverside flat oak forests, most often in places with altitudes of up to 300 m, but everywhere in the immediate vicinity of vast water basins.

Biology. It breeds in separate or mixed colonies. In the large mixed colonies (of Egrets, Glossy ibisses, Spoonbills and Cormorants) it places its nests along the periphery, hidden amongst reedbeds [3]. In April-June it lays 2 (2-8) eggs that it incubates for 25-27 days. The young ones fly away at the age of 45-50 days. Usually it has one clutch. The breeding success is 2,1 young ones per nest. It feeds on fish (usually with a length of 5-15 cm), frogs, water insects and crustaceans, water snakes, lizards, small birds and mammals (mainly mouse-like rodents).

Similar species. The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea).

Negative factors. Destruction and damaging of the habitats, pollution of the water basins, illegal shooting in fish farms and outside them, disturbance during the breeding period.

Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria (1985). The major breeding places (the lakes Srebarna, Durankulak, Atanasovsko, Vaya, the Poda locality, the Alepu Marsh) are in protected territories.

Conservation measures needed. Preparation of a National Plan for the conservation of the species; increase of public awareness; strict control for guaranteeing the preservation status of the species and the habitats, placed under the protection of the law.

References. 1. Simeonov et al., 1990; 2. Shurulinkov et al., 2006; 3. Kovachev, Michev, Boev, Kutsarov, in press; 4. Kostadinova, Mihailov, 2002; 5. Michev, 1985; 6. Nankinov et al., 2004; 7. Kostadinova, 1997.

Authors: Zlatozar Boev, Tanyo Michev, Nevena Kambourova

Purple Heron (distribution map)

Purple Heron (drawing)