White Necked Heron

Quick Facts

Length: -
Height: 91 cm
Weight: 900 grams
Colour: White head and long white neck. Slate black upperparts of the body. Legs, feet and bill are black
Habitat: Mostly found in shallow fresh waters, including farm dams, flooded pastures, claypans and roadside d
Food: Fish, amphibians, crustaceans and insects
Predators: -
Status: Secure in all states and territories

The White-necked Heron 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.

Similar species:

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.

Where does it live?

The White-necked Heron is distributed throughout mainland Australia, inhabiting mainly fresh water wetlands.


Although White-necked Herons are sometimes seen in tidal areas, most are found in shallow fresh waters, including farm dams, flooded pastures, claypans, and even roadside ditches.

Seasonal movements:

White-necked Herons have regular winter or spring movements in many areas, but little is known of their patterns of movement.

What does it do?

White-necked Herons feed by wading in shallow water or stalking through wet grass looking for fish, amphibians, crustaceans and insects.
Like other herons, the White-necked Heron has a special hinge mechanism at the sixth vertebra that allows them to rapidly extend their folded neck and so catch unwary prey.


White-necked Herons will breed in any month of the year in response to good rain, but most breeding occurs between September and December. The nest is a loose platform in a living tree such as a river red gum near or over water. The nests may be solitary or in loose colonies. Eggs are incubated by both parents.

Living with us

Farm dams and irrigation and drainage ditches provide feeding habitat for White-necked Herons, but drainage of swamps and diversion on natural river flows disrupts breeding activity.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Friday 19th July, 2013
BirdLife Australia - www.birdlife.org.au


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