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Blue-grey, yellow legs, long, slim neck, pointed grey-black bill. and white facial markings. When breeding, the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back.
Largely resident but with much wandering and makes regular movements away from on the coast in New Zealand. Vagrants reported in the arid interior of Australia and on many islands including Sulawesi, the Moluccas and Timor, the Kai and Aru Islands off New Guinea, and Lord Howe Island, the Kermadecs, Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands.
North-west Australian birds are darker and separated as parryi.
Lakeshores and riverbanks, mangroves, shallow lagoons and on tidal mudflats and estuaries, sometimes rocky shores.
The nest is an messy shallow bowl, made of sticks and usually placed on a leafy branch.
The diet includes fish, insects and amphibians.
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