Green-backed Heron

Butorides striata atricapillus

The Green-backed Heron, also known as the Striated Heron in many parts of its range, is a shy species inhabiting aquatic habitats (swamps, estuaries, lakes, rivers, streams, floodplains and mangrove stands), with a well-vegetated border. Here they feed on a wide-range of mostly water-related prey such as worms, insects, molluscs, crabs, frogs, fish (often attracted with a piece of bait, like floating bread) and even small vertebrates.

These relatively small herons (length 40cm, weight 215g) are mainly active from dusk to dawn. Green-backed Herons are monogamous and pairs usually breed well away from others of their species and only occasionally in small colonies. Their nests are shallow platforms constructed of twigs and reeds in the branches of trees of bushes. They breed throughout the year with a peak coinciding with the rainy season. Clutches of 2-5 eggs are incubated by both parents for 3-4 weeks. The chicks can fly strongly by the time they’re about 5 weeks old.

While this species has a wide distribution across the world (Asia, Australia, the Americas and Africa south of the Sahara), they’re confined mostly to the wetter eastern and northern provinces of South Africa. The IUCN lists the species as being of least concern, though they do note that the population is probably in decline due mostly to loss of habitat.

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35 thoughts on “Green-backed Heron

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    Ditto.. same lovely Striated Heron here in Ecuador! They are intensely shy/elusive, but are ultra-patient fishers! As always, it’s a joy to view your features of various species. I recently enjoyed that post about elephants have the right of way — gave me a great chuckle!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks so much for all the support and kind encouragement, Lisa! Isn’t it fascinating to think the same species occurs on two different continents separated by thousands of miles of open ocean. How did they manage that? Or were they already flying around when Africa and South America were still connected? Boggles my mind!

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      1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        it would be fun to discuss that in person.. we’ll tab that topic and open it again if that ever does happen!!! i think that they started on atlantis, and when it sank, they flew in two different directions – or more!!! yes, i suspect their lineage goes way way back before the written word!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      It all depends on your perspective I suppose, Joanne – I don’t think any fish, frog or crab in a pond frequented by a green-backed heron is going to argue with you that he is not a horrible mobster!

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  2. Tina Schell

    How interesting it is to see a bird such as this one versus the one I’ve posted this week on my blog. Mine is a Night Heron but it looks very similar to yours and sounds like it has similar habits. The most interesting thing about ours I think is their bright red eyes, even in daylight. Loved your photos this week!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks very much, Tina! Your image of the night heron is terrific – it’s a species we know here as well, but I’ve not managed to get a single good photo of it yet. The Heron family is so interesting and diverse.

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  3. kim blades, writer

    Stunning photos again. I have seen this little heron on the banks of my sister’s dam. As I am writing this comment I can hear a couple of fish-eagles calling above my head. Aren’t we blessed to have such a wonderful variety of wildlife so close to us here in SA. I so much wish it wasn’t all in decline due to loss of habitat and the pressures that too many humans have on the Natural environment!

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