Herons and Egrets at Keoladeo National Park || Waterbirds and Waders at Bharatpur

We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?)

We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Great Egrets
Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Grey Heron in Flight
Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight.   

Latest Blogpost - Non-Avian Creatures at Bharatpur || Keoladeo National Park is not just about the birds

We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Great Egret in Flight


You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes.  


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance
Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Purple Heron
It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. 

Related Blogpost - Hotel Sunbird @Bharatpur || A Great Place to Return to After a Tiring Walk through Keoladeo National Park


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Indian Pond Heron
We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises
Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Grey Heron up close
The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water.


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern
A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?)
In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Intermediate Egret (?)
This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance
Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. 


We were definitely fortunate when it comes to the number of Herons and Egrets we were able to sight during our visit to the Keoladeo National Park in November. However, at that time, we did not know which was which. These two birds are so similar when it comes to their behavior that it takes an expert to identify them separately. We referred to our birding companion - A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds of India. However, I am sure we have made some mistakes in case of a few birds. In case you can spot any, please do point them out. We would be eternally grateful. Great Egrets.Both Herons and Egrets, and also the Bitterns, belong to the family Ardeidae. Though some argue that these are actually same birds with the only differences being that Egrets usually have white or buff plumage and develop distinctive white plumes during the breeding season. Otherwise, both these birds seek the same kind of habitat - wetlands. They breed in trees close to the wetlands, and they fly with their necks retracted, unlike storks and cranes who fly with their necks outstretched. Grey Heron in Flight. Experts are still undecided about what makes a heron, a heron and an egret, an egret. So much so that though these birds are classified under separate genera - Ardea and Egretta - the only marked difference in the definition of  these genera is the size. Ardea consists of larger of the Herons whereas Egretta consists of the smaller ones. Though the size difference is often indistinct. Both the birds typically have a large wingspan and look very graceful in flight. Great Egret in Flight. You will often see these birds standing still with one leg raised and their necks outstretched carefully watching out for prey to come close enough so that they can snap it up with a quick movement of their neck and beaks. These birds are carnivorous and feed mainly on fish, frogs, lizards, and molluscs. Some herons, such as the cattle egret, often move away from the wetlands and follow cattle. These egrets feed on the insects that are disturbed by the movement of cattle in bushes. Juvenile Purple Heron(?) in the foreground with Great Egrets in the Distance. Another aspect that is unique about Herons is that they have powder down. These peculiar down feathers that often disintegrate into a powdery substance are thought to be of special significance to these birds because of their wet habitat and damp surroundings. It is also believed that these birds use the powder to preen and coat the feathers that cover the rest of their body. It is supposed to protect these feathers from slime and dirt. Purple Heron. It took us a while to associate these tall, graceful birds with the little cattle egrets we are used to seeing in the city. Initially I thought that these were cranes. However, when upon further research I discovered that though cranes and herons may look alike at a glance, they are indeed two very different birds. While Herons belong to the order Pelecaniformes, Cranes are part of the Gruiformes order. Unlike Herons who hold their necks in an "S" shape and completely retract them during flight, cranes old their necks straight. Herons have longer beaks and necks than cranes, though cranes typically are bigger in size. Indian Pond Heron. We were unfortunately not able to spot any cranes during our visit to Keoladeo. Cranes that are supposed to flock in Keoladeo during winters are Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, and Common Crane. Of these, Siberian Crane does not visit India any more. A single pair of these critically endangered birds was last seen in Keoladeo National Park in 2002. Since then there is no recorded sighting of these birds in India. This is sad. If you think you have seen a Siberian crane during your visit to Keoladeo National Park, you are either mistaken or unbelievably fortunate and on the verge of being famous. Grey Heron keeping company with Black-Headed and Glossy Ibises. Herons and Egrets keep company with other water birds such as ducks, coots, waterhens etc. You will often spot one or two individuals standing tall among a flock of other smaller birds. In the above photograph, a grey heron is seen peacefully existing with the much smaller ibises. The ibises in this picture are the black-necked Ibis and the Glossy Ibis, which are often mistaken as white Ibis and Black Ibis, respectively. Though the black-necked Ibis is nearly threatened, they were a common sight in Keoladeo National Park. Grey Heron up close. The dotted line running down then neck of a grey heron creates an illusion of stitch marks and you may be forgiven if you confuse the bird with a stuff toy. From a distance and also at various stages of this heron's life, it may resemble the Great Egret quite a bit. However, two of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of the Egret are its dark legs and yellow beaks, which are also almost always easily identifiable from a distance, unless the legs are hidden behind the bushes or under water. Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern. A smaller member of the Ardeidae family, the bittern is classified into a separate subfamily Botaurinae. Typically smaller than the other herons, bitterns also exhibit slightly different behavior patterns. Bitterns are smaller and plumper than a typical Heron. They also have shorter necks, though they too can retract and elongate their necks. Unlike Herons who patiently wait for their prey to wander close enough, bitterns, and also pond herons, at times are known to chase down their prey. This kind of active hunting is not seen in other Herons. The bittern seen above has a similar plumage to the Indian Pond Heron (scroll up to see), but has a cinnamon colored underbelly as opposed to a white one in the pond heron.  Grey Heron with Cattle Egret (?). In the photograph above, you can see a Grey Heron in close vicinity of a cattle egret. While structurally, both the birds seem similar, there are clear differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. While the Heron (on the left) has light-colored legs, the egret has darker, almost black, legs. Also, the beak in case of a Heron is pinkish, whereas an egret has a yellow beak. Both these birds, in the photograph above, are quite interested in something that is happening on their left. Intermediate Egret (?). This looks like a cattle egret though I cannot be sure. It's neck is too short for a great egret, though admittedly the bird looks a bit bigger than the egrets we see in the city. So may be it is an intermediate Egret. I will leave it to the experts to judge. However, such a picture of an egret standing still at the edge of water looks deceptively peaceful. I also found out what is known as the bagula in India (bagula bhagat for its unique habit of standing with one leg folded) is the same bird as the Great Egret. Purple Heron with Great Egret in the distance. Here are two of the larger birds in the same frame. The bird in the foreground is the purple heron and the one in the far distance is the great egret. You can see the thick "S" shaped neck of the Great Egret, while the purple heron up close has a slender neck, though this bird too can retract its neck when it so feels like. We were really grateful to spot these graceful birds in their natural habitat. The Keoladeo National Park is one of the very few walled wetlands where migratory and resident birds are safe from human interference. Cattle Egret. The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit.
Cattle Egret
The sheer variety of birds at Keoladeo National Park is overwhelming. More than 400 different species have been observed here. Of those, we were only able to see a handful. At the time, we thought some of these herons and egrets and storks were migratory, but it turns out that they are all resident. The only migratory birds we saw were the smaller ones. The park is already lively, and I wonder how much more lively it would be once the migratory birds arrive. Anyhow, I think February would be a good time for another visit. 

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling - 

1. Manage your waste well and don’t litter Use dustbins.
2. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin. 
3. Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem. 
4. Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits. 
5. Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite

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