Striated Herons are common to Bribie Island and can be seen near water, in mangroves, and on mudflats. Just recently much to my surprise, I saw a juvenile standing on the sand at the water’s edge near the Bongaree jetty. They are a reasonably small, predominately grey Heron of stocky build with short legs and tails and looking a lot like bitterns in shape. On their wing feathers are lovely yellow patterns which are visible when seen up close. Their legs are yellow and there is also a yellow patch around the eyes.
Featured Image(above): Juvenile at Bongaree Jetty
They are around 44 cm tall, 45-50 cm in length and weigh approximately 200g. Males are larger and a little brighter than females. When flying, they keep close to the ground with their necks tucked in and feet trailing behind. Striated Herons are solitary birds mostly feeding and roosting alone. Normally they are silent except if disturbed on their nests. There are two distinct morphs. The grey morph is the one we are most likely to see in our locality whereas the rufous morph is mostly found in Western Australia in and around the Pilbara area.
In Australia, they are confined to a narrow coastal strip from near Carnarvon in Western Australia to the border of NSW and Victoria where they are found in mangroves, river mouths, and mud flats. They are mostly sedentary, so they don’t move far from their normal territories. There are several other countries in the world where they have established themselves including PNG, Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Food is obtained by stalking on the ground near water mainly at low tide.
They creep up on their prey in a crouched position with head extended and tail flicking and when the victim is sighted it is pounced upon and eaten quickly. The main foods taken are crustaceans, mollusks, and fish which are skewered with their sharp bills. Sometimes they sit on a low perch and swoop on their quarry from there. August to December is the most likely time for Herons to nest in our area.
Solitary pairs build their nests in forks of Melaleuca, Mangrove or Casuarina trees in or near water. Nests are quite small, untidy, flimsy and made with sticks and twigs by both parents. Three to four pale green eggs are laid and incubated for about 21-25 days by both parents that also tend to the young. Chicks do not remain in their nests for very long and soon venture forth onto the branches nearby growing their wing feathers and learning to fly. Sometimes two broods are produced in one season.
Other names sometimes used are Mangrove Heron, Little Heron or Mangrove Bittern. Striated Herons are sometimes confused with Little Bitterns. Little Bitterns have more chestnut and orange colourings. There are several names for a group of Herons e.g.: battery, hedge, scattering, and pose. If threatened on the nest Striated Herons squawk loudly and remain in the area making loud clucking sounds in the hope the predator will be frightened off. Young birds when alarmed will stretch out their necks with their bills pointing upwards. I do not know if this is an effective predator dissuasion.
Manmade threats to the Heron and many other birds are the destruction of habitat and the introduction of feral cats. Conservation status is still secure even though the numbers are decreasing.
BAR-TAILED GODWITS – LIMOSA LAPPONICA
These smallish birds are close to my heart as every year they fly up to 11,000 km to the Arctic Circle to breed in the very short summer then fly the same distance back to Moreton Bay again to spend our summer on the mud flats eating and resting and trying to gain enough weight to make the journey again.
They lose up to 70% of their body weight on each flight so it is important for them to be able to eat and rest without too much disturbance. Recently I visited Toorbul at high tide to wish them a safe journey and to take photographs as they will be leaving soon on their annual trek. Many of the birds were in breeding plumage and some had already left. When they reach their nesting grounds there is very little time for them to lay their eggs and raise their chicks before it is time for them to return.
Development along the flyway across Eastern Asia has made it very difficult for them to survive this arduous flight. Increasing numbers do not make it. Little by little many of their nesting and feeding grounds in Moreton Bay are being developed as well. In a few weeks, most of them will be gone with only a very few remaining for the winter.