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 Name||English Name||Arabic Name||French Name|
|Botaurus stellaris||Bittern||الواق||Butor etoile|
|Ixobrychus minutus||Little Bittern||الواق الصغير||Blongois nain|
|Nycticorax nycticorax||Night Heron||بلشون الليل||Heron bihoreau|
|Ardeola ralloides||Squacco Heron||واق ابيض صغير||Heron crabier|
|Bubulcus ibis||Cattle Egret||ابوقردان بلشون البقر||Heron garde-boeufs|
|Egretta garzetta||Little Egret||بلشون ابيض صغير||Aigrette garzette|
|Egretta Alba||Great White Egret||بلشون ابيض كبير||Grande Aigrette|
|Ardea cinerea||Grey Heron||بلشون رمادي||Heron cendre|
|Ardea purpurea||Purple Heron||بلشون ارجواني||Heron 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)