Herons are characteristic birds of wet places; wetlands and the coast. Expertly adapted to catch fish with their harpoon like bills, and able to wade into shallow water using their long legs, they can stand motionless for long periods – as every fisherman knows you have to patient to catch fish! In Lebanon, only two species breed; the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) and occasionally the Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). The 7 other species either only migrate through the country, or spend the winter. All are fascinating to watch and once you have found them (some are well camouflaged) easy to observe as they are medium sized to very large birds and, if not disturbed, will stay in one place for a long time.

A Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) at Aammiq showing the characteristic dagger like bill and long legs, for wading in shallow water characteristic of this family.

Heron Species in Lebanon

These are the 9 species that can be seen in Lebanon, with their Scientific, English, Arabic and French names:

Scientific NameEnglish NameArabic NameFrench Name
Botaurus stellarisBitternالواقButor etoile
Ixobrychus minutusLittle Bitternالواق الصغيرBlongois nain
Nycticorax nycticoraxNight Heronبلشون الليلHeron bihoreau
Ardeola ralloidesSquacco Heronواق ابيض صغيرHeron crabier
Bubulcus ibisCattle Egretابوقردان بلشون البقرHeron garde-boeufs
Egretta garzettaLittle Egretبلشون ابيض صغيرAigrette garzette
Egretta AlbaGreat White Egretبلشون ابيض كبيرGrande Aigrette
Ardea cinereaGrey Heronبلشون رماديHeron cendre
Ardea purpureaPurple Heronبلشون ارجوانيHeron pourpre

The Best time and places to see Herons

Little Bitterns arrive at their breeding sites in April (Aaamiq, Kafr Zabad particularly). The migrant species are best seen in the spring (as then there is the most water around) from mid March to May. Winter visitors such as the majestic Great White Egret tend to arrive at their Bekaa sites when the wetlands fill from winter rain, so January to March in most years. Outside of the wetland sites these birds can be seen migrating almost any where in the country but the coast is a particularly good place to keep a watch for them; Palm Islands, Ras Beirut from the Corniche and Tyre Beach Nature Reserve are particularly good sites.

Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)