Martin Garner with Ian Lewington and Oscar Campbell
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.
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.
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.
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”
Not had enough? Lots more images of Indian Pond Herons in the United Arab Emirates >>> HERE<<<