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Scientific name : Ardeola ralloides
Family : Ardeides
Leng. 40 to 49 cm, Wing. 80 à 92 cm
Squacco Heron or Crab-eating Heron is a species of medium-sized wading birds of the family Ardeidae. It is characterized by a general buff color sustained or light brown. Its greyish beak in all seasons becomes blue-turquoise at the time of reproduction. His legs are orange. The plumage of his head is remarkable since it is adorned with many white and brown egrets. In flight, it seems completely different since it is the white color of its wings which predominates. There is no marked sexual dimorphism in this species.
Crabbers are migratory birds. They migrate mainly to the tropical regions of northern Africa. The first returns to the Camargue sites take place at the beginning of April and the passages continue until the end of May.
This heron breeds in estuaries, deltas and riparian galleries, preferably in areas of well-developed vegetation, in swamps and lakes with thick riparian and aquatic vegetation. In migration and for food, it also frequents ponds, ditches, rice fields and open lakes.
The Squacco Heron is slowly flapping its wings, head bent back and legs outstretched. Powerful and steady flight.
Squacco Heron feeds on fish, amphibians and insects that it captures in shallow water. Frogs are among his favorite prey. It feeds along streams, and at the edges of swampy patches, near the canopy. Despite its name, no crab catch was observed. Recent studies have shown that Orthoptera and Coleoptera accounted for most of the diet in the Camargue. Squacco Heron takes a fairly horizontal posture when fishing.
This heron nests in groups in trees, groves or reeds, usually with other herons and egrets. The nest consists on a platform of branches, twigs, reeds. Both parents build the nest but usually the female is responsible for arranging the materials brought by the male. The laying of 4-6 pale greenish-blue eggs occurs in May. Incubation lasts about 22 to 24 days by the female alone. The chicks, altricial leave the nest after 30 to 35 days and take flight after 45 days.
Protected species in France (Articles 1 and 5 of the amended Order of 17/04/81), listed in Appendix I of the Birds Directive, in Appendix II of the Bern Convention and listed in category A3c of the AEWA (Mediterranean populations, Black Sea and North Africa).