13 January 2013

Squacco Heron with dark primary tips – Dhahran Hills

In the early morning I found a Squacco Heron sitting on the edge of the settling pond. It flew off immediately but luckily landed on the barbed wire fence behind me. I took a photo of the bird and got one shot of it in flight also before it flew off. The bird looked like a Squacco Heron, albeit with a dark mantle, which a number of birds in the winter in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia have. In flight though the bird had obviously dark tipped primaries a feature normally associated with Indian Pond Heron. When I got home I looked at the photos and although reasonably confident the bird was a Squacco Heron I asked a few people, including Tommy Pedersen and Oscar Campbell from the United Arab Emirates what they thought. Indian Pond Heron occurs each winter in the United Arab Emirates so was interested to hear what the guys there thought. Both Tommy and Oscar thought the bird was a Squacco Heron with the following some points as to why they thought this:

  • Little streaking on the neck, if it was an Indian Pond Heron with this amount of streaking the bird would have been in more summer like plumage.
  • Streaking not extending far enough down the neck for Indian Pond Heron and not extending across the breast, as is the case in Indian Pond Heron.
  • Creamy orange undertones to the neck are more typical of Squacco Heron.
  • Lack of loral bar.
  • Amount of dark on the primaries is variable in both species.

My understanding that Squacco Heron had white primaries (with some birds showing only slight dark on the primaries) and Indian Pond Heron dark tipped primaries is obviously not correct and all the main features of a bird needs to be seen as above and also:

  • Dark loral stripe
  • Bill should be thicker and blunter tipped
  • Dark Mantle colour showing some purple hints

Thanks to Tommy and Oscar for their help - I now have a better idea as to what to look for when faced with a possible Indian Pond Heron.