I was interested to see Niven McCrie's comments on odd herons.
Hilary Thompson and I noted unusual herons at the Leanyer Sewage Ponds in
May and June 1985, April, May 1986, and May 1987 associating with Pied
Herons, and I saw two more at the same sewage ponds in 2000.
The May 1985 bird was an adult. In comparison to Pied Heron it had a
slightly longer, broader bill and slightly longer legs. The cap was
rather like Pied but the foreheard was whitish. Facial skin was
greenish-yellow. the bill was mainly black with a greenish-yellow tip
and whitish base to the lower mandible. The eye was bright yellow.
The throat was off-white with warm rufous breast and breast plumes. The
abdomen was medium-grey. Upperparts were medium-grey with rufous plumes
on secondaries and coverts. Legs greenish-yellow but for a black edge to
the posterior tarsus.
One of the 1986 bird was grey above. The head was dull rufous with a
dark blue-grey cap and head plumes. It had a yellow eye and facial skin
and a yellow-green bill with darksish area along upper mandible. The
throat was whitish. Underparts were dull rufous but rather patchy
(Hilary thought it looked rather motheaten), with an obscure dusky line
down the middle of the breast. Breast plumes were rufous overlapping the
grey belly. Legs: upper parts above joint they were pale grey; the
tarsus was mud-coloured.
There were a couple of other herons with these birds that looked more
similar to White-faced Heron.
One was predominantly grey, darker above. The head was grey with no cap,
and the face and throat were grey. Eye and facial skin was yellow. The
bill was greenish-yellow with no dark marks. Underparts were dull rufous
interspersed with patches of medium grey merging into light chestnut on
overlapping plumes of lower breast. Abdomen was light grey. Legs were
Another Darwin resident, Bill Panton noted similar strangely-plumed
herons at Fogg Dam at Fogg Dam in April 1989..
My most recent sighting of unusual herons was posted on the Birding Aus.
chatline so I won't repeat the details here. Mike Reed also has photos
of an unusual heron taken around Katherine, I believe.
Hilary and I suspected these birds were hybrids between Pied and
White-faced herons. We approached the NT Museum re collecting specimens
at the sewage pond, but they were not particularly interested. These
unusual herons are mentioned in my books 'Birds of Darwin Mangroves and
Mudflats (1996) and 'Birds of Australia's Top End' (2001).
My computer suffered a major crash a couple of weeks ago, and when up and
running again began sending messages from a year or so ago that appeared
not to have been sent at the time. So if any of you've suddenly received
a strange email from me that's why! And along that line Jill Dening
would you please email me?
Denise L. Goodfellow
Birding-Aus is on the Web at
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