Chinese pond heron

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A Chinese pond heron is seen in Honghu Park in Luohu District. 

Probably the most common group of birds you can spot in almost every water body in Shenzhen are the herons, or what we commonly know as egrets and bitterns. This group of birds are characterized by having long legs as well as long necks with sharp beaks.


There are several species of this group that can be easily spotted in the city all year round, like the little egret (Egretta garzetta) or the great egret (Ardea alba), the beautiful grey heron (Ardea cinerea), an occasional Black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) or even a not too common Pacific reef heron (Egretta sacra). But the big winner populating Shenzhen is the beautiful Chinese pond heron (Ardeola bacchus).


Pond herons like to wade quietly along shallow waters in ponds, rivers, marshes and even on sea shores looking for easy prey to catch. Their diet includes frogs, fish, crabs, insects or any aquatic animal they can get, but in our city it is very interesting to see them having certain preferences for a specific species of fish called pond loaches that inhabit most of the city ponds and rivers within Shenzhen.


A Chinese pond heron is seen with its prey on the bank of Dasha River, Nanshan District.

These birds are quite big compared to other birds in the city and can reach an average of 45 centimeters long and a wingspan of up to a hundred centimeters. Their long beak is yellow with a black tip and their fascinating plumage changes from greyish-brown with some white linings into a captivating red, blue and white during the breeding season. During this period, females will lay clutches of around four or five eggs at a time that both parents help incubate and also help feed the newborns once they hatch.


Watching the pond herons activity across the city is quite interesting and since they are almost everywhere in Shenzhen, you get to enjoy them very often. One of the most amusing observations I have made about them is the fact that they are not too skilled at getting their prey and too often fail to retain their intended catch or even get their precious prize stolen by a fellow heron competitor, so that might be a good reason why you see them basically working on their hunting the entire day.


It is true that pond herons are not considered an endangered species and that their numbers are huge, but their contribution to keeping our environment controlled and plague free is enormous, so it becomes relevant to mention how important it is to preserve their habitats and to prevent any harm to them. Our city’s authorities are doing their part in providing enough natural spaces for them to survive, so let’s do our part as citizens as well in order to preserve and to keep our beloved species safe.