Galapagos Lava Heron

The Galapagos lava heron is very tame bird and you can take beautiful photos of it at close distances.


galapagos lava heron

The Galapagos Heron is found on almost every shore in the Galapagos Islands where it catches small fish for feeding.

The hunched shape of this small heron is a characteristic sight along the coasts of all the Islands in Galapagos.

Though well camouflaged against lava, the lava heron is the most frequently seen of the Galapagos herons and the only endemic one.

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The Lava Heron (Butorides sundevalli) is endemic or "unique" to the Galapagos Islands. They can be mostly observed on the James Bay area of the Islands.

The Galapagos lava heron is found on most types of shore where it catches small fish in tide-pools and tidal creeks. It also stealthily hunts small crabs and lizards among the rocks.

In mangroves, it perches amongst the stilt-roots and catches small fry by diving like a king-fisher. Young birds of this species are brownish with much dark streaking.

Lava herons usually nest under rocks or in mangrove thickets where up to three eggs are laid in a twig nest. Most nesting is from September to March.

The Galapagos lava heron is very similar in appearance to the Striated Heron: they're the same size and shape, and have roughly the same coloration.

The Striated Heron has a black crown and dappled wings, whereas the Lava Heron is a uniform gray color.

Some experts believe that the heron has adapted to blend in easily with the lava rocks of Galapagos.

During mating season, the male Galapagos Herons develop brightly colored feet and his beak turns a glossy black.

The Galapagos lava heron coloring enables it to blend in with its environment and therefore hide from predators.

The adults can be very dark and difficult to spot against the lava.

Unlike most herons, these Galapagos Birds nest in solitary pairs in either the lower branches of mangrove trees or under lava rocks.

The Galapagos lava heron is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Striated Heron, or even just a color morph of it.

However, it is typically maintained as a separate species.

Galapagos Lava Heron Feeding

The Lava Heron perches on rocks or branches in mangroves, tidal pools and along any shore where small crabs and fish can be found.

It waits, still as a stone, before suddenly lunging forward to snap up its prey. They are very efficient hunters and fishers: some Lava Herons have been observed catching up to three small crabs per minute.

Galapagos Herons have also been known to eat the flies that gather near cacti.

The adult Lava Heron is slate-grey, which helps it blend in with the hardened lava. The back feathers typically have a silvery sheen and it has a short crest on its head.

Galapagos Lava Heron Mating

Lava Herons are monogamous (only breed with one mate at a time) for the breeding season and engage in elaborate courtship displays. They can breed year-round, though typically from September to March and can mate up to three times a year.

Male Lava Herons obtain bright breeding colors on legs and beaks and some like the Great and Snowy Egrets develop aigrettes, which are spectacular head, neck and scapular plumes.

When breeding, the heron has a black beak and bright orange legs, but they fade to grey after the breeding season.

After they formed pairs, females build platform nests of sticks in trees, shrubs or bushes near water while the males gather the necessary materials. Up to 10 eggs are laid and both incubate and the hatching is asynchronous.

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides). Click to order from Amazon

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading!

There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.


Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands. Click to order from Amazon

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Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers.

Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!


Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in.

Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!


Moon Spotlight Galapagos. Click to order from Amazon

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Small, well-priced, and reliable!


Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

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This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!


If you have questions about the Galapagos Lava Heron or if you'd like to request more details about our recommended Galapagos Island Tours to visit this Archipelago, You can Contact us here

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