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Ardeola rufiventris (Rufous-bellied heron) 

[= Butorides rufiventris

Rooipensreier [Afrikaans]; Hakaruu (generic term for short-necked herons and bitterns) [Kwangali]; Roodbuikreiger [Dutch]; Crabier à ventre roux [French]; Rotbauchreiher [German]; Garça-de-barriga-vermelha [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 rufiventris (Rufous-bellied heron)   

Rufous-bellied heron. [photo Stephen Davis ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs from southern DRC through Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola and Malawi to South Africa. In southern Africa, it is generally uncommon in patches of Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique, eastern South Africa and central Namibia, while more abundant in northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). It generally prefers flooded grassland and the shore of permanent water bodies (fringed by reedbeds).

Distribution of Rufous-bellied 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).

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Resident and sedentary on the Okavango Delta, while it is thought to be a breeding migrant to Zimbabwe in mid to late summer. It also breeds on the Nyl River flood plain, Limpopo Province in the period from December-May.


It mainly eats fish, amphibians, insects and worms, doing most of its foraging by standing still or slowly moving through shallow water, stabbing any prey that comes too close.


  • Monogamous, solitary or colonial nester, sometimes breeding in groups of 2-4 pairs.
  • The nest is a shallow platform of reeds and twigs, lined with grass or flowers. It is typically placed in a well-foliaged tree or bush, or alternatively in a Phragmites reedbed.
  • Egg-laying season is nearly year-round.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for roughly 21 days.
  • The chicks are able to fly at about 24 days old, and can fly strongly about week 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.