Butorides is a genus of small herons. It contains three similar species, the Green Heron or Green-backed Heron, Butorides virescens, the Dwarf Bittern (Butorides sturmii), and the Striated Heron, Butorides striatus. A fossil species, Butorides validipes, is known from the Early Pleistocene of Florida. Adults of both extant species are about 44 cm long, and have a blue-black back and wings, a black cap and short yellow legs. Juveniles are browner above and streaked below, and have greenish-yellow legs. The species have different underpart colours, chestnut with a white line down the front in Green Heron, and white or grey in Striated. Both breed in small wetlands on a platform of sticks often in shrubs or trees, sometimes on the ground. Butorides herons stand still at the water’s edge and wait to ambush prey. They mainly eat small fish, frogs and aquatic insects. They sometimes drop food on the water’s surface to attract fish.
The male Ixobrychus sturmii has physical features that are slightly different from the female bird.
Video Dwarf Bittern
copyright: Martin Kennewell
Breeds from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south, mainly through the eastern half of Africa, to the Cape. Absent from the arid areas of the south-west. Generally rare and seldom seen. A partial migrant occurring in the northern part of the range during the May-September wet season. An extremely rare vagrant to the Western Palearctic and recorded only in the Canary Islands. There are four acceptable records, although the first two of these, both from Tenerife, one in the late 19th Century and the other in the 1970s, have yet to be ratified by the relevant recording bodies. The first accepted record was a bird photographed on Gran Canaria in January 2000. The most recent was a bird photographed at Erjos on Tenerife in August 2002 and present until April 2003. In addition there have been several unsubstantiated reports from Lanzarote and Allegranza and a 19th Century record of two birds shot in France