Ardea bennuides Hoch

Bennu Heron (Ardea bennuides)

The ‘Benu’ or ‘Bennu’ is a mythological bird of ancient Egypt, of which there are numerous, very detailed depictions on temple walls, etc., which now and then differ in their colors, but which almost always represent a superhuman-sized heron with very long occipital feathers. 

In ancient Egypt it was believed that the Benu only came to Egypt to nest every 500 years. 

The mythological figure may be based on an actually existing species …. 


The Bennu Heron was the largest known heron in the world, reaching a height of approximately 1.8 m. 

The species was described from a single fragment of a tibiotarsus found in the deposits left behind by the so-called ‘Umm Al Nar’ Culture (2000-2700 B.C.E.) in what is now the United Arab Emirates. At that time, conditions in the region were wetter than today, for example there were extensive mangrove swamps, home to various marsh and water birds, including the giant Bennu Heron. 

The species disappeared around 2500 B.C.E. as a result of climate changes that led to the region drying out and thus the destruction of the Bennu Heron’s habitat.


Benu or Bennu 

Depiction from: ‘G. Ebers: Egypt: Descriptive, Historical, and Picturesque. Cassell & Company 1878’ 

(public domain)



[1] E. Hoch: Reflections on Prehistoric Life at Umm an-Nar (Trucial Oman) Based on Faunal Remains from the Third Millennium B.C.. In: South Asian Archaeology. 589–638. 1979 


edited: 31.05.2012