Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Ardea purpurea Linnaeus, 1766

Species:A. purpurea
Common Names:Purple Heron

Locality Map

General Biology

The Purple Heron prefers freshwater wetlands but can also be found in mangroves, marshes, ponds, mudflats, estuaries, grasslands, fields and canals. It is crepuscular and solitary in habits. The call is a deep harsh croak.

It nest gregariously on trees near water and mangroves. Clutch size is 3–5. The eggs are pale blue, measuring 1.42 x 1.75”. Nest building was recorded in January through May, September, November, and December. Eggs were seen in April. Chicks seen in January through September, and December. Immatures were seen in March through September. Chicks to fledging takes at least 74 days.


Feeds on crabs, small fish, snakes, frogs, lizards and small birds.

An adult was observed at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve with a its lower mandible torn open, possibly damaged when it tried to swallow a catfish. Seven months on it was still alive and feeding, although with difficulty. The fish it tried to swallow kept on slipping out of the throat but after more than ten times it succeeded.

Life Cycle

Copulation was observed when presumably the male landed on top of the female who was submerged in the water, grabbing at each other's neck.


First recorded in 1940 from a juvenile specimen collected in Singapore (Wells, 1999). Two immatures were seen on 15 December 1963 at the former Jurong prawn ponds (Medway & Wells, 1964). One was seen on 3 April 1976 in Serangoon mangroves (Wells, 1983).

A state-wide count of 222 birds in Singapore, 26 Mar 1989 is believed to have reflected new local nesting success (Wells, 1999). However surveys conducted in 2003 and 2004 have shown a great decline in numbers (Wang, 2003; 2004). This is most likely due to the loss of nesting grounds and human disturbance. The largest heronry consisting of more than 100 Purple Heron nests was constantly disturbed at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the mid 1990s, until the colony was abandoned completely in 2000. Since then, only small colonies of a few nests were observed in Singapore.

Museum specimens RMBR 2 (1 FF, 1 MM), UWBM 1 (1 MM)


Medway, Lord & D. R.Wells. 1964. Bird Report: 1963. Malayan Nature Journal, 18 (2 & 3): 133-167.

Wang, L. K. 2003. Where have the herons gone? Singapore Avifauna, 17(2): 32-34.

Wang, L. K. 2004. Where have the herons gone? Singapore Avifauna, 17(4): 24-26.

Wang, L. K. 2011. Herons. Pp. 341–342. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

Wells, D.R. 1983. Bird Report: 1976 and 1977. Malayan Nature Journal, 36: 197-218.

Wells, D. R. 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. Vol. 1. Non-Passerines. Academic Press. 648 pp.

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