The Sinhala name of the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is Karawel Koka, the Tamil name Chen-narai. In spite of its name, there is nothing purple about this bird; its main colour is dark ashy-grey.
The Purple Heron from the heron family Ardeidae is an Old World bird. The Asian subspecies is Ardea purpurea manilensis. It is is a common wading bird throughout Sri Lanka’s lowlands in reed and swamp areas. It is a resident bird in Sri Lanka, whereas European and some Asian populations are migratory.
The purple heron is a large bird, of almost the size of the the Grey Heron, about 85-90 cm in length, but more slender than the Grey Heron, weighing only about 1 kg. The sexes are alike. Young birds are more uniformly coloured rufous-brown.
Purple Herons feed in shallow water, mainly on fish, frogs, rodents, salamanders and snakes but also on insects. Preferred feeding time towards dusk but they are also active during daylight hours. In contrast to storks and cranes, the necks of herons and bitterns are retracted in flight.
Purple Herons live generally solitary. Breeding seasons are from December to February or in May and June, depending on rainfall conditions. It nests in scattered colonies in reed beds or trees close to lakes or swamps, often in company with other herons and egrets.
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