An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. White-faced_heron-donaldhobern White Faced Heron by D. Hobern
  2. White-faced_heron-marj_k White-faced heron by Marj K.
  3. White-faced_heron_face_shot-marj_k White-faced heron close-up by Marj K.

White-faced Heron

Egretta novaehollandiae


  • The White Faced Heron is mostly light blue-grey in colour, with a characteristic white face. In flight, the dark flight feathers of the wing contrast with the paler grey plumage, making this bird easily identifiable when viewed from below. It has a long, slim neck and a pointed grey-black bill. 
  • The legs are long and dull yellow in colour. Sexes are similar. When breeding, the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back. The White Faced Heron has a slow bouncing flight. Young White-faced Herons are similar in appearance to the non-breeding adults (no nuptial plumes), but are duller, with little or no white on the face. They often have a reddish colour on the underparts.


Diet: The White Faced Heron feeds on many different species including fish, insects and amphibians. They find their prey by either searching through wetlands with their bill or standing, waiting and watching for movement in the water.


Breeding: Habits commence outside in response to rainfall. Both sexes share the responsibility of building the nest and incubating the egg. The nest is found in a tree and to the untrained eye resembles a bundle of untidy sticks. They only raise one brood of young a year.


What to Observe

  • Nest building
  • Chicks
  • Bird on Nest
  • Bird on Eggs
  • Calling
  • Courting/Mating
  • Breeding Plumage
  • Feeding
  • Other

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to alter their timing of breeding as a result of climate change warming the Earth and associated changes in the hydrological system.  

When To Look

  • Year round
  • October - December (breeding)

Where To Look

Across all of Australia, in wetland areas.

White-faced Heron compiled distribution map - BirdLife International

White-faced Heron compiled distribution map - BirdLife International

Where To Look

Maps of Habitat Suitability


Current probability
of occurrence
2070 probability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
Species range change from
current to 2070 probability

Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).

The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.

The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.


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  1. What Else?

    The White-necked Heron (Ardea pacifica) is a large heron with a white head and a long white neck with a double line of black spots running down the front. The upperparts of the body are slate-black, with plum-coloured nuptial plumes on the back and breast during the breeding season. Underparts are grey streaked with white. The bill is black, the naked facial skin is is blue or yellow, the eyes are green, and the legs and feet are black. The White-necked Heron is sometimes known as the Pacific Heron.

    The Pied Heron (A. picata) is a similar slate-black heron with contrasting white throat and neck, but it is a much smaller (43 cm - 52 cm) bird, with a crested dark cap that extends below the eyes, yellow legs, and a bill that is mostly yellow.