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the web of life in southern Africa

Egretta vinaceigula (Slaty egret) 

Rooikeelreier [Afrikaans]; Samunkoma (also applied to other long-neck egrets and herons) [Kwangali]; Sharpe-reiger [Dutch]; Aigrette vineuse [French]; Braunkehlreiher, Schieferreiher [German]; Garça-de-garganta-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

Egretta vinaceigula (Slaty egret)  Egretta vinaceigula (Slaty egret) 
Slaty egret (immature), Niewoudtville, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Slaty egret (immature), Niewoudtville, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to south-central Africa, occurring from Zambia and south-eastern Angola to northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), north-western and northern Zimbabwe and southern Limpopo Province.  It generally favours the shallow margins of wetlands, sometimes moving into temporary wetlands in otherwise arid areas.

Distribution of Slaty egret 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.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Mainly resident in large, perennial wetlands, although in summer rains it may make movements to ephemeral water bodies and flood plains.


It mostly eats fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects, doing most of its foraging in shallow water with emergent grasses or sedges, wading quickly and chasing down prey (which it regularly flushes by stirring its feet). It often joins mixed-species foraging flocks along with storks and other herons. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • fish
  • tadpoles
  • invertebrates
    • dragonflies and their larvae (Odonata)
    • snails


  • Usually breeds in mixed-species colonies along with Dwarf bitterns, Rufous-bellied herons or even Red-billed buffalo-weavers.
  • The nest is a platform of twigs with a central depression, lined with reeds or grass and typically placed in a bush over water, such as a Water fig (Ficus verruculosa) or Acacia kirkii (Flood-plain acacia), or alternatively in a reedbed.
  • Egg-laying season is from February-May, peaking in March.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated for 21-24 days.
  • The chicks start to move around close to the nest after a week or so, leaving completely at about 40 days old, at which point they perch on trees nearby.


Globally Vulnerable, although it is more likely to be endangered, as swamp burning and reed-cutting are severely impacting it. Disturbance by humans and livestock at temporary pans and rivers is also a serious concern.


  • 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.