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Scientific name : Ardea purpurea
Family : Ardeides
L de 80 to 102cm, E de 120 to 150 cm
The Purple Heron has purplish-brown plumage with slate-gray wings, brown-red chest, black abdomen, and purple red flanks and scapulars. The eyes are light yellow and its head is adorned with a black cap, the back of the neck is russet brown and white on the front with black streaks approaching the top of the chest which is decorated with longer feathers at the love season. The long, sharp bill is yellow. The yellow legs pulling towards the orange allow him to walk in the water and the mud. Unusually long fingers for a heron allow him to walk on soft vases, floating leaves and land on bushes.
It is a migratory bird present and breeding in Europe and North Africa, occasionally wintering in Western and Southern Europe. He arrives in the Camargue in mid March.
The purple heron breeds on lakesides and swamps with extensive reed beds. Outside the mating season, he prefers more open wetlands lined with vegetation.
The Purple Heron flies slowly with the neck retracted, and the long legs and fingers thrown backwards. Its flight is powerful and steady, with slow flapping of wings.
The Purple Heron feeds in shallow freshwater, waiting unmoved for prey to pass, slowly tracking fish and frogs, or piercing them with its long, sharp, powerful bill. The Purple Heron feeds on fish, molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, larvae, reptiles, small rodents and small birds.
It remains in the reed beds more than the Grey Heron. He is a shy and lonely hunter, preferring night and early morning to hunt.
Purple Heron usually nests in small colonies in dense reed beds in shallow water about one meter above the water. The bulky nest is a platform made of reeds or twigs. The male brings the materials to the female who builds the nest. Additional nests are used by the non-brooding adult and by the young when they leave the nest.
The female lays 2 to 5 light blue-green eggs. Incubation lasts about 25 to 30 days, provided by both parents. Chicks are fed and protected by adults, who regurgitate food directly in their beaks or in the nest. The young leave the nest after ten days and settle in the nearby branches, returning to the nest to be fed. They fly away at the age of three months.
It is a species with a weak population, which probably has regressed a lot. The main threat to this bird is the disappearance of large reed beds and the drying up of wetlands.
The Purple Heron enjoys full protection on French territory since the Ministerial Decree of 17 April 1981 on protected birds throughout the territory. It is listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. It is therefore forbidden to destroy, mutilate, capture or remove it, deliberately disturb or naturalize it, destroy or remove eggs and nests and destroy, alter or degrade their environment.