Waterbirds - there are so many of these long legged, long necks and sharp beaks birds sharing the lot of features they all have in common. In this family Ardeidae, there are 64 recognized species, though some white colored birds are changed to be called "egrets" or "bitterns" instead of "heron".

It is not easy to make a distinct classification of individual heron/egret species, as the tiny differences between them is not that clear cut. Like wise making an ID of them, for example between the various species of Egrets which are all white in color, is not easy. The differences between Herons & Egrets, could be somewhat a little bit more straight forward. All Egrets are assumed to have white feathers [all except the Pacific Reef] So much about introducing this family, Ardeidae and back to this page  that deals with birds having Heron as their names.

Heron, too, nest as a colony in trees.


The largest Heron seen in Malaysia is the Purple Heron at 90 cm  while the Striated Heron, the smallest at 40 cm. Some features of these Herons. They are able to kink their neck into an s-shape, due to the modified shape of the sixth vertebrae. Likewise, this action of retracting and extending is also used in flight. The smaller Herons, Pond Herons or Night Herons have shorter necks. The legs, bare without feathers, are long and strong are held backwards in flight. Finally, the bills are long and harpoon like. These bills could be fine or thick. As for colors, only the Pond Heron display dimorphism in plumage.



Grey Heron


Great-billed Heron



Purple Heron



Striated Heron



Night Heron


Malaysian Night Heron


Black-crowned Night Heron


Rufous Night Heron





There are 3 species of Pond herons that could be sighted in Malaysia, they are all near identical size - 45 cm.


Chinese Pond Heron

It is a bird  of India, China and wintering in the south. This is a fairly common bird in Malaysia. I think in Central Peninsula, makes up the majority of Pond-Heron that we get to see.


Javan Pond Heron

Resident in Java, Bali,  Borneo and Philippines -vagrant in Malaysia.



Indian Pond Heron

This is a bird found in Iran, Afghanistan an the Indian sub-continent  Vagrant in Malaysia




All the 3 birds having almost identical features albeit some very minor differences. Very difficult to tell them apart in their normal non-breeding plumages. Likewise, when they take flight the underside of the wings and tail is also white. Take note, when in doubt whether the bird is a Pond heron or Night Heron. Wait till it flies.

Pond herons are most likely seen in open areas with pools of waters, e.g. sewage ponds, fish ponds and padi fields. They could also be among the low trees by the river and in mudflats.

The only way to ID them is when they are in breeding plumage. Pictures in separate tables below would show. But first, this is a series of pictures showing Pond-heron in general.

Although all the birds named have their habitats related water. So not surprising that I have seen all the 3 groups of them in a single space sharing the same feeding and breeding environment. Other than this common turf, for myself, mentally I associate them in different settings. First, I go according to various habitats that they are seen most often - for example, the Herons in open country, the Pond-herons in sewage ponds and waterways and the Night-herons in colony. I think each of us will eventually find our own way to do a quick ID on these birds.

To conclude this page on Herons, I must say that Herons, particularly the Pond heron with their breeding plumage is interesting. There is only a small window of time each year, to do all the following up for ID and picture taking.

A good portion of the page on Heron is taken up by the Malayan Night Herons, which is a bird that is nearly impossible to follow. Just simply "not there" for us to watch or doing any follow up visit to learn more about them.

Against that background of obstacles in preparing this page, i think that when the name Hero is mentioned, it is no surprise that most people would think of the Purple, Grey and Little Herons. And also in this same order, that the birders are familiar with. Now I hope with more awareness, I am included, we should spend more time to ponder over the facts that we know so little about this group of birds.


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