Rare Pond Heron in Kent

What species?

Martin Garner with Ian Lewington and Oscar Campbell

Squacco Heron, Indian Pond Heron and Chinese Pond Heron. How do you tell these ardeola herons apart in their non breeding plumages. A conundrum that has been around for  while. Vital to know if this mystery heron in Kent resurfaces.

aredola pond heron. Hythe, Kent, 21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014. Mike Dawson

aredola pond heron. Hythe, Kent, 21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014. Mike Dawson

A pond heron species in Kent in recent days (21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014) has been seen and photographed in private gardens in Kent. The photos are intriguing and suggest that it might not be a Squacco Heron but perhaps either an Indian or Chinese Pond Heron.

Here are the images from the Folkstone and Hythe Birds website. Thanks very much to Ian Roberts.

aredola pond heron. Hythe, Kent, 21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014. Mike Dawson

aredola pond heron. Hythe, Kent, 21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014. Mike Dawson

 

The most interesting features are a dark mark running horizontally though the yellowish lores and the underparts streaking, while only partly visible (and on a blurred image) appears too thick for typical Squacco Heron. Perhaps interestingly also the colour of the basal half of the lower mandible appears to have an orangey tone, which seems at least a little more obvious on Indian Pond Herons versus Squacco.

I looked at this subject with Ian Lewington about 8 years ago, so this intrigued me enough to revisit it. These are just musings, explorations of ideas if you like,  based on looking at specimens with Ian, his follow up work for the just released Rare Birds of North America, and conversations with him and with Oscar Campbell. Also grateful to Oscar for his photos.

Indian Pond Heron, Safa UAE, Jan. 2013 Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Safa UAE, Jan. 2013 Oscar Campbell

Some potentially useful features for separating Squacco (ralloides), Indian Pond (grayii) and Chinese Pond Herons (bacchus) 

These are initial observations made a while back and still need working on and clarifying further!

Loral stripe: A well known feature of Indian Pond Heron, but can also been found in varying degrees on Chinese Pond Heron and even Squacco can have small dark marks in the lores. When present as well-marked (often V-shaped dark area), highly indicative of Indian Pond Heron. A few Indian Pond Heron’s don’t have it or barely show it.

‘Dark Curtain’ on feathering on breast: On both Chinese and Indian Pond Herons a line of dark feathering separates the breast streaking from the paler, plain belly. It is sometimes obscured by long overlying breast feathers. We coined this as a dark ‘curtain’. Squacco doesn’t normally show a (hidden) dark ‘curtain’ of feathering here. We did find a couple of Squacco specimens with darker feathering (not as dark as grayii and bacchus)  but the same individuals were mostly n summer plumage (see below).

Underpart streaking: Thinnest on Squacco with open plain central breast area with lovely warm yellowish-tan wash. Streaking broader on both Chinese and Indian Pond Herons and without warm tan wash. However with care there is a subtle difference. On the underparts of Indian the streaking is similarly broad throughout. On Chinese there is something of a difference with thinner darker streaks on in central breast region  and open unstreaked area on mid/lower breast compared to broader streaks on the sides. Excellent views and good photos would be needed. To be further defined as well!

Bill Colour: Might be nothing but worth exploring a bit further. Is more of a defined area of orange (versus) yellow component to lower mandible better for Indian Pond than Squacco (c.f. summer bare part colours)?

Anyhow. Have a look at some great photos below from Oscar Campbell, and some museum specimens. Hope the Kent bird gets seen again and further resolved.

Indian Pond Heron, Safa UAE, Jan. 2013. Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Safa UAE, Jan. 2013. Oscar Campbell

Indian Pond Heron, Wam, UAE, Feb. 2010. Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Wam, UAE, Feb. 2010. Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Kerala, Nov 2010.  Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Kerala, Nov 2010. Oscar Campbell. Weakly marked in loral area.

Indian Pond Heron, Kerala, Nov. 2010. Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Kerala, Nov. 2010. Oscar Campbell

Indian Pond Heron, Corbett,  Jan. 2007. Oscar Cambell

Indian Pond Heron, Corbett, Jan. 2007. Oscar Campbell

Squacco Heron,  UAE,  Jan. 2013. Oscar Campbell

Squacco Heron, UAE, Jan. 2013. Oscar Campbell

Squacco Herons showing streaking pattern, more open plain area in central breast and lack of dark 'curtain'.

Squacco Herons showing streaking pattern, more open plain area in central breast, warm tan wash and lack of dark ‘curtain’. Martin Garner. Copyright NHM

2 Chinese Pond Herons (upper) and 2 Squacco Herons (lower) showing difference in underparts., with broader streaking and dark curtain of feathering on Chinese PH. Martin Garner. Copyright NHM

2 Chinese Pond Herons (upper) and 2 Squacco Herons (lower) showing difference in underparts., with broader streaking and dark curtain of feathering on Chinese PH. Martin Garner. Copyright NHM

Squacco Herons showing  dark curtain of breast feathering though paler than on Chinese and Indian Pond Herons and on an individual in (mostly) summer plumage. Martin Garner. Copyright NHM

Squacco Herons showing dark curtain of breast feathering though paler than on Chinese and Indian Pond Herons and on an individual in (mostly) summer plumage. Martin Garner. Copyright NHM

ardeola herons 3 Indian PH (left), 3 Chinese PH (centre), 2 Squacco Herons (right). Ian Lewington, copyright NHM

ardeola herons: 3 Indian Pond Herons, grayii,  (left), 3 Chinese Pond Herons, bacchus,  (centre), 2 Squacco Herons, ralloides, (right). Ian Lewington, copyright NHM. All 3 can be slightly paler/whiter in centre of neck and breast, though with differences in colour tones and streaking patterns. See below.

ardeola herons: 3 Indian Pond Herons, grayii,  (left), 3 Chinese Pond Herons, bacchus,  (centre), 2 Squacco Herons, ralloides, (right).  Upperpart tones are darker more purplish on Indian and Chines Pond Herons, but not an easy character to use with no direct comparison! Ian Lewington, copyright NHM

ardeola herons: 3 Indian Pond Herons, grayii, (left), 3 Chinese Pond Herons, bacchus, (centre), 2 Squacco Herons, ralloides, (right). Upperpart tones are darkest (and tad more maroon) on Chinese Pond Herons, slightly paler and browner on Indian Pond Heron and palest on Squacco Heron. However it’s pretty darn subtle and not an easy character to use with no direct comparison! Ian Lewington, copyright NHM.

Oscar Campbell on upperpart tone adds:  “In the light of some recent experiences, whilst the mantle colour is a good guide on some birds (certainly anything with a marked pale, creamy tan wash is likely to be Squacco), some Squacco Herons can appear very dark indeed and can even have a decidedly ruddy, almost purplish tinge”

4 Chinese Pond Herons. Ian Lewington, copyright NHM

4 Chinese Pond Herons, bacchus,  Ian Lewington, copyright NHM. Features visible in these specimens include visible or obscured dark ‘curtain’ of feathering across breast (not found in Squacco in winter where breast is washed with pale warm tan colour) and white centre of neck leading to open whitish area on breast. Streaking over this area finer than in Indian Pond Heron. See below.

 

4 Indian Pond Herons, grayii, Ian Lewington, copyright NHM

4 Indian Pond Herons, grayii, Ian Lewington, copyright NHM. Similar visible or obscure dark curtain of feathering over breast as per Chinese Pond Heron, and while whiter in centre of neck and breast, lacks more open patch on breast and dark streaking is thicker.

 

aredola pond heron. Hythe, Kent, 21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014. Mike Dawson

aredola pond heron. Hythe, Kent, 21st-24th January and 3rd February 20014. Mike Dawson

 

Not had enough? Lots more images of Indian Pond Herons in the United Arab Emirates >>> HERE<<<

 

6 thoughts on “Rare Pond Heron in Kent

  1. Harry Hussey

    Very interesting, and nice to read this so soon after seeing Squacco and Indian Pond Herons in Oman last month. Unfortunately, my pics of the latter species leave a lot to be desired due mainly to distance. I recall a nice article, I think written by Frederic Jiguet, in Alula a few years back, mainly dealing with an Indian Pond Heron he found in Egypt but dealing with the seperation of Indian and Chinese Pond Herons and Squacco Heron in non-breeding plumages. Must dig that out and see how it stands up.

    Reply
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  5. Birdwatchingnovice

    I found this site after spotting a Heron like bird on a private garden wall at approximately 05:00. After a quick google search I can safely say I have spotted this bird in the Medway area.

    Reply
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