email a friend
printable version
White-backed Night-heron Calherodius leuconotus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Calherodius leuconotus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Gorsachius.

Gorsachius leuconotus (Wagler, 1827)

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Behaviour The movements of this species are very little known (del Hoyo et al. 1992), although it appears to be sedentary, possibly making partial seasonal migrations related to the onset of the rains (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). It breeds in solitary pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), the breeding season varying geographically, but usually coinciding with the rains or the early dry season when floods are at their highest (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). The species feeds singly or in pairs and is strictly nocturnal (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992), requiring secure day-roosting spots such as high trees or very dense marsh and forest vegetation (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Habitat The species inhabits densely vegetated forest (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), frequenting tree-fringed streams, mangroves, islands in large rivers and lakes, the wooded margins of marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005) and occasionally reedbeds (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet Its diet is little known, but may consist of small fish, amphibians, molluscs, crustaceans, flying ants, flies and other insects (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a stick platform (Hockey et al. 2005), usually well hidden and built low over water in trees or bushes (Hockey et al. 2005), occasionally away from water in trees, bushes, reedbeds, mangroves, or on rocks, rock piles on islands (Hockey et al. 2005, Kushlan and Hancock 2005) or rocky shores in caves (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), but very rarely in exposed positions (Hockey et al. 2005).

The species is threatened in southern Africa by habitat loss and degradation. Overgrazing, increased water offtake, soil erosion and poor river management are leading to siltation, reduced river flows, and increased water turbidity, and riparian vegetation is being cleared for agriculture (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Barnes 2000). Utilisation This species is hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria (Nikolaus 2001).

Barnes, K. N. 2000. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Kushlan, J. A.; Hancock, J. A. 2005. The herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Nikolaus, G. 2001. Bird exploitation for traditional medicine in Nigeria. Malimbus 23: 45-55.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Species factsheet from HeronConservation - The IUCN-SSC Heron Specialist Group

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Calherodius leuconotus. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Ardeidae (Herons)
Species name author (Wagler, 1827)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 7,860,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change