An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. White-faced_heron-donaldhobern White Faced Heron by D. Hobern
  2. White-faced_heron-marj_k White-faced heron by Marj K.
  3. White-faced_heron_face_shot-marj_k White-faced heron close-up by Marj K.

White-faced Heron

Egretta novaehollandiae


  • The White Faced Heron is mostly light blue-grey in colour, with a characteristic white face. In flight, the dark flight feathers of the wing contrast with the paler grey plumage, making this bird easily identifiable when viewed from below. It has a long, slim neck and a pointed grey-black bill. 
  • The legs are long and dull yellow in colour. Sexes are similar. When breeding, the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back. The White Faced Heron has a slow bouncing flight. Young White-faced Herons are similar in appearance to the non-breeding adults (no nuptial plumes), but are duller, with little or no white on the face. They often have a reddish colour on the underparts.


Diet: The White Faced Heron feeds on many different species including fish, insects and amphibians. They find their prey by either searching through wetlands with their bill or standing, waiting and watching for movement in the water.


Breeding: Habits commence outside in response to rainfall. Both sexes share the responsibility of building the nest and incubating the egg. The nest is found in a tree and to the untrained eye resembles a bundle of untidy sticks. They only raise one brood of young a year.


What to Observe

  • Nest building
  • Chicks
  • Bird on Nest
  • Bird on Eggs
  • Calling
  • Courting/Mating
  • Breeding Plumage
  • Feeding
  • Other

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to alter their timing of breeding as a result of climate change warming the Earth and associated changes in the hydrological system.  

When To Look

  • Year round
  • October - December (breeding)

Where To Look

Across all of Australia, in wetland areas.


  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    The White-necked Heron (Ardea pacifica) is a large heron with a white head and a long white neck with a double line of black spots running down the front. The upperparts of the body are slate-black, with plum-coloured nuptial plumes on the back and breast during the breeding season. Underparts are grey streaked with white. The bill is black, the naked facial skin is is blue or yellow, the eyes are green, and the legs and feet are black. The White-necked Heron is sometimes known as the Pacific Heron.

    The Pied Heron (A. picata) is a similar slate-black heron with contrasting white throat and neck, but it is a much smaller (43 cm - 52 cm) bird, with a crested dark cap that extends below the eyes, yellow legs, and a bill that is mostly yellow.