Hamerkop - Scopus umbretta

This handsome and stylish bird is commonly known as Hamerkop and Hammerhead Stork because its head has a crest at the back resembling a hammer. Its scientific name is Scopus umbretta (Pelecaniformes - Scopidae) and occurs in Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar and coastal southwest Arabia in all wetland habitats.

The Hamerkop’s behavior is unlike other birds’. Besides being compulsive nest builders, an unusual feature is that up to ten birds join in “ceremonies” in which they run circles around each other, all calling loudly, raising their crests, fluttering their wings. Another is “false mounting”, in which one bird stands on top of another and appears to mount it, but they may not be mates and do not copulate.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©tdwrsa | Locality: Kruger National Park, South Africa (2014)

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White-necked Heron (Ardea pacifica)

Also known as the Pacific heron, the white-necked heron is a species of heron (Ardeidae) which is native to New Guinea and Australia. Like other heron species white-necked herons typically inhabit wet areas like freshwater wetlands, and wet grasslands, where they will feed on fish, frogs, insects, and occasionally reptiles. 


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Pelecaniformes-Ardeidae-Ardea-A. pacifica

Image: Wayne Butterworth


There is a lot of debate as to the taxonomy of the shoebill.  For a long time, the shoebill was classified as a member of the stork family, Ciconiiformes.  Recent studies, however, have suggested that it is more closely related to the heron and pelican family, the Pelecaniformes, and genetic testing has shown that the shoebill’s closest relative is the similarly ambiguous hamerkop (lower image).


Lava Heron (Butorides sundevalli)

Also known as the Galapagos Heron, the lava heron is a species of heron (Ardeidae) which as evidenced by its common name is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It earns its other common name due to its gray coloration which helps it blend into its hardened lava background. Lava herons usually inhabit intertidal zones and mangrove groves where they will catch fish and crabs by spearing them.


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Pelecaniformes-Ardeidae-Butorides-B. sundevalli

Images: Benjamint444 and punteymark

Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias

The Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias (Pelecaniformes - Ardeidae), is the largest of the North American herons. Though very common and widespread from Canada to north of South America, find these herons is always a majestic sight, specially when they mate, such as this male displaying.

Displays include stretching neck up with bill pointing skyward, flying in circles above colony with neck extended, stretching neck forward with head and neck feathers erected and then snapping bill shut.

Despite their impressive size (up to 137 cm in length and up to 201 cm in wingspan), Great Blue Herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones (a feature all birds share).

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Ryan Bennett | Locality: Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Florida, US (2007)


There is some debate about whether the shoebill is part of the order Ciconiiformes (the cranes and herons) or the Pelecaniformes (pelicans).  Recent DNA evidence suggests that the shoebill and its close relative, the hamerkop (lower photo) are actually the missing link between the two families.

Japanese Night Heron (Gorsachius goisagi) of the species of “Night Herons” which breeds in Japan, and winters in the Philippines and Indonesia. They are also known to spring and summer in parts of the Korea Peninsula and Russia. Japanese night herons typically inhabit dense, damp forests near some body of water.

Currently Gorsachius goisagi is listed as Endangered by the IUCN, due to threats including deforestation and the introduction of predators like the Siberian Weasel. 


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Pelecaniformes-Ardeidae-Gorsachius-G. goisagi

Image: Ken

European shags - Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Phalacrocorax aristotelis (Pelecaniformes - Phalacrocoracidae) is a species of cormorant found around the coastline of Britain and throughout western Europe.

In breeding condition, adults develop a green gloss to the black plumage, and a black crest develops on the head. Outside of the breeding season, the plumage is duller and the bill is more yellow in color), although there is a yellow patch at its base throughout the year.

European shags have black feet, legs, and bill, with bright yellow skin at the base of the bill and bright turquoise eyes.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©John Cannon

Locality: Loch Sunart, Acharacle, Highland, Scotland.