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Ardeola ralloides (Squacco heron, Common squacco heron) 

Ralreier [Afrikaans]; Hakaruu (generic term for short-necked herons and bitterns) [Kwangali]; Kokolofitoe (generic term for heron) [South Sotho]; Ralreiger [Dutch]; Crabier chevelu [French]; Rallenreiher [German]; Garça-caranguejeira [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Ardeidae

Ardeola ralloides (Squacco heron, Common squacco heron)  Ardeola ralloides (Squacco heron, Common squacco heron) 
Squacco heron. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Squacco heron. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]
Ardeola ralloides (Squacco heron, Common squacco heron)  Ardeola ralloides (Squacco heron, Common squacco heron) 
Squacco heron. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©] Squacco heron. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from southern Europe to northern and sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and  South Africa. It generally prefers still freshwater habitats with dense fringing vegetation; flooded grassland and temporary pans with emergent vegetation.

Distribution of Squacco heron in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and sedentary in permanent wetlands but nomadic elsewhere, moving in response to new temporary water bodies.


It mainly eats a variety of small aquatic animals, doing most of its foraging at the water's edge, creeping through the water with its head held forward, ready to strike. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • fish
    • frogs
  • Invertebrates


  • Monogamous and usually colonial, living in small to large colonies, often alongside other bird species.
  • The nest is built by the male in roughly 1-3 days, displaying on it until a female joins him to start a family. It consists of a compact platform of thin sticks and reeds, lined with grass and placed in a reedbed, bush or tree over water.
  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from August-March in Zimbabwe and South Africa and from March-August elsewhere in southern Africa.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for roughly 18-24 days (recorded in Madagascar and Europe).
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 35 days, but only flying approximately 20 days later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.