Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)


French: Héron pourpré German: Purpurreiher Spanish: Garza imperial

Ardea purpurea


, 1766,

“in Oriente”; restricted to France


Extremely rare race bournei (not recognized in HBW) has been proposed as a distinct species, Cape Verde Heron, on basis of pallor of plumage (2) and foraging on dry substrates (1); merits conservation efforts irrespective of taxonomic status. Four subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. p. purpurea Linnaeus, 1766 – Purple Heron – W Palearctic, including parts of N Africa, E to Kazakhstan and Iran; Africa S of Sahara.
  • A. p. madagascariensis van Oort, 1910 – Madagascar.
  • A. p. manilensis Meyen, 1834 – S & SE Asia, S & E China and Taiwan to Russian Far East, and S to Greater Sundas, Philippines, Sulawesi, Moluccas (Buru) and Lesser Sundas.
  • A. p. bournei de Naurois, 1966 – Cape Verde Heron – Cape Verde Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    78–90 cm; male 617–1218 g, female 525–1135 g; wingspan 120–150 cm. Crown black with two lanceolate plumes up to 15 cm in length, head- and neck-sides... read more


    Higher-pitched “frank” call than that of A. cinerea is given mainly in flight, with a “... read more


    Open, shallow freshwater swamps with dense marshy vegetation, mainly in Phragmites, but... read more

    Food and feeding

    Fish (2–15 cm long, occasionally up to 55 cm), frogs, aquatic insects and crustaceans; also small birds and mammals, snakes and... read more


    Season Apr–Jun in West Palearctic (e.g. Europe and N Africa), although time of nesting has shifted gradually from third week of Apr... read more


    Marked post-breeding dispersal. West Palearctic birds migratory, mainly wintering in Africa S of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and locally common in Africa, where 5000–10,000 birds in Tanzania and Madagascar, and c. 1475 individuals in Niger,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). 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 28 January 2020).