Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala)


French: Héron mélanocéphale German: Schwarzhalsreiher Spanish: Garza cabecinegra

Ardea melanocephala

Children and Vigors

, 1826,

no locality = possibly near Lake Chad


Closely related to A. humbloti. Monotypic.


Sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Eritrea and S to South Africa.

Descriptive notes

92–96 cm; 710–1650 g. Smaller and relatively slimmer-bodied than A. cinerea, from which easily distinguished by black on head and neck, bicoloured wing... read more


Variety of harsh, squawking calls including a raucous croak or loud, nasal “kuark” away from... read more


Largely terrestrial and associated much less with wetlands than most herons; typically found in... read more

Food and feeding

A wide range of vertebrates and invertebrates, mostly terrestrial but also aquatic; rodents (rates, water voles and musk-shrews), insects (... read more


Mainly during rains; in places year-round, but peak still usually during rains, e.g. Senegambia and Guinea Bissau in Apr–Jun, Mali in... read more


Sedentary in equatorial zone; elsewhere apparently migratory, with movements related to dry seasons... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and common, but with rather patchy distribution and no overall indications of abundance; population of Niger estimated at... read more

Recommended citation

Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).