Summer Pond Heron Plumages

and interesting wing tips

by Martin G

The Chinese Pond Heron in Kent continues to elude birders and yet fascinate on both aspects of identification and vagrancy. What plumage is it moulting into? Have we found a new little feature of winter identification of ardeola herons?

Which plumage is the Kent Bird moulting into?

The broad brush strokes usually go like this: There are several species of Pond Herons ‘ardeola’. In winter plumage they look very similar/ are impossible to identify. In summer plumage they turn into ornately coloured pond fairies  🙂 . The Kent bird is moulting into one of them.

CLICK on photo sets above for better views. Thanks to Dave Gandy for help. More on his blog too. >>>Visit Now<<<

Indian Pond Heron in April (left) and Chinese Pond Heron in March (right)

Indian Pond Heron in April (left) and Chinese Pond Heron in March (right)

Squacco Heron in March (left) and Javan Pond Heron of subspecies continentalis in April (right)

Squacco Heron in March (left) and Javan Pond Heron of (ssp. continentalis) in April (right)

Escape of Vagrant?

OK. Which plumage/species is the Kent bird moulting into? There are other species of Pond Heron but these are the main candidates. Based on origins, known movements and presence in European zoos the (very broad) view is roughly:

Javan Pond Heron. speciosa Not expected as natural vagrant. More common in zoos

Chinese Pond Heron. bacchus Longer distance migrant (though Britain is a LONG way). Rare/ not present in zoos. The hoped for card.

Indian Pond Heron. grayii Less likely as vagrant to Britain naturally reaching south-eastern parts of Western Palearctic region. i.e. East Mediterranean and Middle East. Handful in Zoos?


Primary tips

Thanks to our local chap a few more pics of the bird from the weekend. Helpful shots of  the wing tips appear here. Notice how much dark is present in the primaries. Depending to some degree on angle of light, the outer 2 primaries are rather extensively  dark, along the outer web right up to the primary coverts. The is quite a lot of dark pigment on all the primary tips. In conversation with Ian Lewington and as continuation of conversation of several years! See some of our  >>> OLD STUFF <<< We think (still looking into) that this is too much dark on the wing tips in winter for ANY plumage of Squacco Heron. Hypothesis: This much dark in primary tips in winter = Asian taxa of  Pond Heron? Discovering.

Dark shaft streaks in primary coverts and primary shafts are at least interesting though have not seen good enough photos of the lesser coverts – yet. To be cont’d…

22 feb oneCPH17 bn

Kent Chinese Pond Heron (looks like that way me!) above 2 photos late February 2014

Squacco Herons below in Israel March 2012. Compare wing tips.

Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner.

Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner.

Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner. (different to trapped bird above)
Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner. (different to trapped bird above):



Photo added showing dark at wing tips of Kent bird, tad different angle. See discussion below:

CPH14 b


4 thoughts on “Summer Pond Heron Plumages

  1. Rob Martin

    However this appears to be an age-related character, with possible differences in extent between species. Certainly in Cambodia the thought was that Chinese were those with more extensive dark in the wingtips vs. Javan, but it is not the case that Squacco heron always have wingtips as displayed in the very crisp bird above. Here’s a nice youngster from Turkey:
    Here’s a Spainiard
    For right now I’d put a lot more weight on the colour of the head feathering coming through underneath, which appears to suggest a Dionysian celebration in the offing.

    1. Martin Garner Post author

      Hi Rob. You are right of course. Dark wing tips are not odd on Squacco and yes may be age related- more likely in younger birds. No argument. The point we wanted to get across in quick (my sloppy bog post) was that on this Kent bird, the amount of dark seemed to us to be BEYOND the amount of dark found in any age/stage of Squacco. Therefore something of an echo also you experience in Cambodia with 2 sp.. Individuals like the Kent bird focus thinking and might move us beyond the intractable- can’t do winter ardeolas.. recording exact dark in wing tip is is not always easy- angle of light etc-another pics of same bird added in post above.

      yes of course new breeding plumage is KING –

      and as I am now curious you have carte blanche to explain or write a post on your a Dionysian celebration in the offing 🙂

  2. Rob Martin

    Dionysus = Greek god of god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy, sometime converted by them pesky Romans to the rather more populist Bacchus, god of wine. I’m not sure, but I guess someone had imbibed a couple of fruity full-bodied glasses of burgundy when confronted with naming conundrum for this particular beast….

  3. Pingback: Snow bunting in winter plumage, video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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