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Pacific Reef Heron - BirdForum Opus

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Nominate race
Grey and white morphs
Photo © by T. J. Collins
Near Darwin, NT, Australia, 2 September 2006

Alternative name: Pacific Reef Egret, Eastern Reef Egret

Egretta sacra


Photo © by firecrest15
Lee Point beach, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, 31 October 2017

58–66 cm (22¾-26 in)

  • A polymorphic species; two morphs, white or dark grey (the more common) overall plumages
  • Patchy intermediate morphs are also known,
  • Short yellow legs
  • Brown bill
  • Yellow eyes

Similar Species

White morph closely resembles Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes). In non-breeding plumage the two are probably indistinguishable in the field.


Southern Korea and southern Japan south to Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Also breeds on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean and the Marquesas and Tuamotus in the Pacific.


Subspecies E. s albolineata
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Kuto Bay, Isle of Pines, New Caledonia, 23 September 2019

The Pacific Reef Egret is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Little Egret.


There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • E. s sacra:
  • E. s albolineata: larger with darker bill.
  • New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands


Mostly coastal; rocky shores, coral reefs and off-shore islands, less commonly on mudflats and lagoons; sometimes foraging in paddyfields close to the sea.


Usually forages by stalking prey over intertidal rocks. Sometimes forages aerially stabbing at the water while hovering.


Their diet mostly consists of small crabs and fish, such as mudskippers. They will occasionally eat molluscs, insects and lizards.


The clutch contains two or three pale greenish-blue eggs. Both adults incubate the eggs for about 28 days and care for them for around 35 days from hatching.


Mainly resident perhaps with limited post-breeding dispersal.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Pacific Reef-egret (Egretta sacra). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52696 on 25 March 2019).
  3. BirdForum Member observations
  4. Hancock, J. & J.Kushlan. 1984. The Herons Handbook. Harper & Row, New York.
  5. Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 1, ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  6. Dutson, G. (2011) Birds of Melanesia, Christopher Helm, London.

Recommended Citation

External Links

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