Ardea purpurea 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Pelecaniformes Ardeidae

Scientific Name: Ardea purpurea Linnaeus, 1766
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Purple Heron
French Héron pourpré
Taxonomic Source(s): Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds). 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Belarus; Belgium; Benin; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Central African Republic; Chad; China; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; France; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Germany; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Hong Kong; Hungary; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Libya; Liechtenstein; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Madagascar; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Mali; Malta; Mauritania; Moldova; Montenegro; Morocco; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Netherlands; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia - Vagrant, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia); Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Spain (Canary Is.); Sri Lanka; Sudan; Swaziland; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Western Sahara; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Barbados; Denmark; Faroe Islands; Finland; Iceland; Ireland; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Norway; Sao Tomé and Principe; Sweden; Trinidad and Tobago; United Kingdom
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:90500000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1800
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is estimated to number c.270,000-570,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 31,600-46,000 pairs, which equates to 63,100-92,100 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend Justification:  The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). The European population trend is estimated to be decreasing (BirdLife International 2015).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Behaviour Populations breeding in the western Palearctic are migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and travel on a broad front between breeding and wintering grounds (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). African and tropical-Asian populations are largely sedentary however, occasionally making local dispersive movements (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species breeds from April to June in the western Palearctic, during the rains in Africa, and from June to October in the north of India or November to March in the south of India (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is a colonial breeder (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Turner 2000, Kushlan and Hancock 2005) and although nesting group sizes are usually small (e.g. 2-3 pairs per colony in Africa) and rarely exceed 50 pairs (Turner 2000), colonies of up to 1,000 pairs have been recorded in some areas (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992). It often also nests on the periphery of colonies of other heron species such as Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). In migratory populations the autumn migration occurs from August to October (Hancock and Kushlan 1984), with the return passage in the spring beginning in March (Hancock and Kushlan 1984). On migration the species commonly occurs in small groups (the maximum recorded migratory groups sizes being 300-400 individuals) (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and throughout the year it will roost communally by day and by night (Hancock and Kushlan 1984) in groups of up to 100 individuals (Brown et al. 1982) although it generally feeds solitarily (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species is mainly crepuscular, but may also feed diurnally (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Habitat The species inhabits wetlands from sea level to 1,800 m (Madagascar) (del Hoyo et al. 1992), showing a preference for dense, flooded, freshwater reedbeds (Phragmites spp.) in temperate areas (occupying Typha, Scirpus and Papyrus swamps elsewhere) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). It also utilises lake shores, river margins (del Hoyo et al. 1992), ditches, canals, brackish water lagoons (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), rice-fields, mangroves and coastal mudflats (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet Its diet consists of fish 5-15 cm long (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (occasionally up to 55 cm), salamanders (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), frogs, insects (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. beetles, dragonflies, hemiptera (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) and locusts (Hancock and Kushlan 1984)), crustaceans (del Hoyo et al. 1992), spiders (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) and molluscs (Hancock and Kushlan 1984) as well as small birds and mammals, snakes and lizards (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a platform of reeds stems or sticks (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) positioned over or beside water up to 3 m high in flooded reedbeds (del Hoyo et al. 1992), 3-4 m high in thickets or mangroves (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) or up to 25 m high in trees (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species usually nests in loose single- or mixed-species colonies with Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, and although colony sizes are usually small, large groups of up to 1,000 pairs have been recorded (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992) (the colony size depends on the size of the area of marshland) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Management information Studies in southern France have shown that the overall conservation of this species in Europe is favoured by maintaining large uncut reedbeds with relatively high spring water levels (Barbraud et al. 2002).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):10.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat to this species in Europe is the loss of reedbeds though direct elimination (to reduce sedimentation) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), agricultural encroachment (Hockey et al. 2005), water management practices (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) (e.g. drainage) (Hockey et al. 2005) and reed cane harvesting (Kushlan and Hancock 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive, Annex II of the Bern Convention and Annex II of the Convention on Migratory Species, under which it is covered by the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA).

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Studies in southern France have shown that the overall conservation of this species in Europe is favoured by maintaining large uncut reedbeds with relatively high spring water levels (Barbraud et al. 2002). Freshwater habitats need to be sustainably managed and non-intrusion zones established around colonies.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Ardea purpurea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22697031A86466990. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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