It is somewhat smaller than the grey heron, from which it can be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. It has a narrower yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. The most similarly-coloured heron is the Goliath heron, which is considerably larger. The purple heron is a large bird, 78?97 cm (31?38 in) in length with a standing height from 70 to 94 cm (28 to 37 in) and a 120?152 cm (47?60 in) wingspan. However, it is slender for its size, weighing only 0.5?1.35 kg (1.1?3.0 lb). It has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The long neck of the purple heron looks particularly snake-like, with more of an S-shape in flight.
Habitat and Distribution
It breeds in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, wintering in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia. It is a rare but regular wanderer north of its breeding range.
It feeds in shallow water, spearing fish, frogs, insects, spiders, small birds, rodents, salamanders, and snakes. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. It tends to keep within reed beds more than the grey heron, and is often inconspicuous, despite its size.
The purple heron breeds in colonies in reed beds or trees close to large lakes or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest.
Calls and Songs
The call is a loud croaking `krek`.