The White-bellied Heron
) is a species of large heron
The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called "egrets" or "bitterns" instead of "heron"....
found in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...
in India, northeastern Bangladesh, Burma and Bhutan. Records in the past have been from Nepal. It is mostly all dark grey with white throat and underparts. This heron is mostly solitary and is found on undisturbed riverside or wetland habitats. The global population has declined and the species is threatened by disturbance and habitat degradation.
This large heron is plain dark grey above with a long neck. The crown is dark and there are no black stripes on the neck as in the Grey Heron. In breeding plumage, it has a greyish-white nape plume and elongated grey breast feathers with white centres. The bill is black, greenish near the base and tip and the face is greenish grey. The chin is whitish. The legs are dark. In flight, it has a uniform dark grey upperwing and white underwing-coverts contrasting with dark grey flight feathers. The rump appears paler grey. At 127 cm (50 in), it is the largest Asian heron and the second largest heron on earth, after the Goliath Heron
The Goliath Heron is a very large wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller numbers in Southwest and South Asia.-Description:This is the world's largest heron...
. On the ground it walks slowly, moving its neck slowly while looking from side to side. The Goliath Heron is larger and has a chestnut neck while the slightly smaller Sumatran Heron is grey necked with the underside of the wings all grey.
The usual call given when disturbed is a deep croak.
Taxonomy and systematics
This heron was first noted as the "Great Indian Heron" in JE Gray's Zoological Miscellany
of 1844 based on Brian Houghton Hodgson
Brian Houghton Hodgson was an early naturalist and ethnologist working in British India and Nepal where he was an English civil servant. He described many species, especially birds and mammals from the Himalayas, and several birds were named after him by others such as Edward Blyth...
from Nepal. Allan Octavian Hume
Allan Octavian Hume was a civil servant, political reformer and amateur ornithologist in British India. He was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, a political party that was later to lead the Indian independence movement...
noted its distinctiveness and pointed out the differences between it and Ardea sumatrana
. The alternate name of Ardea imperialis
was suggested by Stuart Baker, since Hodgson's name was a nomen nudum
The phrase nomen nudum is a Latin term, meaning "naked name", used in taxonomy...
and this was used in Peter's Checklist. This was used until 1963, when Biswamoy Biswas
Biswamoy Biswas was an Indian ornithologist who was born in Calcutta, the son of a professor of Geology. In 1947, he was awarded a three year fellowship by Sunderlal Hora, then director of the Zoological Survey of India...
commented on Sidney Dillon Ripley
Sidney Dillon Ripley was an American ornithologist and wildlife conservationist. He served as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1964-1984.-Biography:...
's synoptic list and noted:
Habitat and distribution
The White-bellied Heron is found in the wetlands of tropical and subtropical forests in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas of India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....
. It is also spotted in Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan's sub tropical areas and was once found in Nepal. The major threats the heron faces are hunting (both the bird itself and its eggs) and habitat destruction (the cutting of nesting trees and the disappearance of wetlands).
This species is rarer than previously believed; indeed, it appears close to extinction. It has therefore been uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered status in the 2007 IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...
In Bhutan, white bellied herons are found in the low elevation riparian habitat below 1700 m, particularly in the Punatsang Chhu (river)basin. About 32 individual birds are known within the river valley of Bhutan in the Punakha-Wangdiphodrang district in west central part of the country. It is under grave threat of extinction in Bhutan due to accelerated development of large-scale hydro-power projects in the basin. Rising water levels force the nesting birds to search extensively for fish, leaving the eggs or chicks exposed to predators such as the Crested Serpent Eagle
The Crested Serpent Eagle is a medium-sized bird of prey that is found in forested habitats across tropical Asia. Within its widespread range, there are considerable variations and some authorities prefer to treat several of its subspecies as completely separate species. In the past, several...