Friday, June 10, 2011

Herons of The Reef

On February  9, 2007, Vanuatu Post released the fauna stamp, features Herons of the reef. It was interestingly seen in two different colour phases in Vanuatu – the white form has pure white plumage and yellow/brown/olive face, bill and legs. The dark form is slate-grey to brownish-black with a thin white stripe on the throat. The white form is the more rare version of the two types.
The stamp issued are one miniature sheet consist of 5 single stamps depicts their lives and the First Day Cover depicts their habitat in the background picture.
They inhabit rocky coasts and reefs but are also found around sea cliffs, mangroves and mud flats. They are found alone or in pairs and are strongly territorial in defending their foraging areas. Stalking gracefully through the shallows, they feed mainly at the intertidal zone (sometimes at night) and take small crabs, crustaceans, and small fish as well as frogs, lizards and insects. Canopy feeding, (where a heron’s wings form a parasol to provide shade and assist fishing) is common in herons but not in this species.
The nesting season is usually February to July and the adults nest in coastal trees as well as in bushes on the rocky shore and on the ground. The nest is made of sticks and twigs and often becomes bulky over a number of years. two or three pale blue eggs are laid and the chicks are sparsely covered with down. Fledging takes around 5-6 weeks.
The heron grows in length to around 50cm and is widespread throughout the Pacific but is found mainly on the western seaboard from Japan to Burma, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

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