It's Heron Week on iNaturalist! Jan 31 - Feb 6

The Critter Calendar stays in the wetlands and watery areas of the world as we focus on the order Pelicaniformes - a diverse group of birds that includes pelicans, herons, ibises, spoonbills and more!

Comprising medium-sized and large water birds, the taxonomy of the Pelicaniformes has gone through many changes, and for this week we are going with the International Ornithological Committee’s definition, which includes the following families:

Herons and Bitterns

The Ardeidae are the Herons, Egrets and Bitterns, who use their long legs and necks to to stalk their prey, often along the water’s edge. Herons like the Grey Heron have grey, blue and other dark feathers, while egrets are herons who have white or buff feathers. Egrets in the United States were nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s, due to their plumed feathers being sought after for women’s hats. Bitterns are smaller than herons and have shorter necks and brown/tan plumage. The Ardeidae fly with their long necks retracted and their legs held straight back.


The large gular pouches under their long bills make the pelicans (Pelecanidae) instantly recognizable. They prowl coastal and inland waters around the world and often skim just over the water’s surface as they fly, using ground effect to keep them in the air. The four “white” pelican species, like the Great White Pelican, nest on the ground, whereas four darker colored species, like the Brown Pelican, nest in trees or rocks. They will catch multiple fish in their pouches then drain out the water before swallowing.

Ibises and Spoonbills

Found mostly in standing or slow-moving brackish water, the ibises and spoonbills (Threskiornikidae) have long necks and legs like the Ardeidae, but hold their necks out straight while in flight. Spoonbills like the Royal Spoonbill have flat and wide spoon-shaped tips to their bills, which they use to find aquatic creatures as they sweep through the water. The bills of the ibises point downward and they use a probing motion to feed for invertebrates in the mud. Ibises are gregarious birds and are usually found in groups.


The Shoebill (Balaenicipitidae), which ranges throughout swamps of central Africa, lives up to its name - it sports a large, wide bill with sharp edges, which it can use to decapitate the lungfish which make up most of its diet. It is the only member of its family and is highly sought after by birders.


Like the Shoebill, the Hamerkop (Scopidae) is also a single species family from Africa. Their name means hammer-head in Afrikaans. Hamerkops have brown plumage and and shorter legs and necks than other wading birds in this order. Bizarrely they also have partially-webbed feet and will join together in “ceremonies,” where they call loudly, raise their crests, flap their wings and and run in circles around each other. Hamerkops build giant nests that resemble huge piles of sticks high up in trees very similar in appearance to the pack-rat nests seen in North America.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Pelicaniforme hunting!

Publicado el 31 de enero de 2016 a las 07:36 AM por loarie loarie


Haha! I love reading about that hamerkop (never heard of that bird before):

"Scopus, a database of abstracts and citations for scholarly journal articles, received its name in honour of this bird, as the hamerkop is renowned for its superior navigation skills."

Anotado por sambiology hace mas de 8 años

No way! I didn't know thats where Scopus got its name!

Anotado por loarie hace mas de 8 años

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