Capped Heron Pilherodius pileatus

  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: F. E. Buderman

Diet and Foraging


Capped Herons hunt mainly for fish, but also for aquatic insects, tadpoles, and frogs (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), along the edges of small marshy pools and slow moving wooded streams (Kushlan et al. 1982). Fish tend to be between 1 and 5 cm long (Kushlan et al. 1982). Insects also may be gleaned off of nearby vegetation. They spend about half (49%) of their foraging time (n=343 minutes) in a standing crouched position (Kushlan et al. 1982). In a typical sequence described by Kushlan et al. (1982), a Capped Heron will stand erectly, then, locating a potential prey item, crouch slowly and extend their neck.  This may be followed by a quick side to side head motion. They may also forage while walking, usually covering the same area repeatedly, pausing for a few seconds while slowly moving a foot to take a new step. The predominant motion used to catch prey is a bill thrust (91%, n=253 strikes), accompanied by a body lunge, followed by grasping or piercing.  They have a success rate of 23% (n=254 strikes, Kushlan et al. 1982), but have a high strike frequency.  There are reports of aerial hunting, with birds hovering over the water and swallowing fish in flight, and hunting from perches (Willard 1985). Capped Herons move frequently between feeding sites, sometimes flying up to a 100 m.  When only moving a few meters, they will walk quickly or hop (Kushlan et al. 1982). May be crepuscular (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989), but have been observed foraging during broad daylight, unlike the night-herons (Haverschmidt 1958).

Foraging Behavior

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Recommended Citation

Buderman, F. E. (2010). Capped Heron (Pilherodius pileatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.