White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus)

White-eared Night Heron

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Gorsachius magnificus | [authority] Ogilvie Grant, 1899 | [UK] White-eared Night Heron | [FR] Bihoreau superbe | [DE] Hainanreiher | [ES] Martinete magnifico | [NL] Hainankwak


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Gorsachius magnificus OR s, e China


Gorsachius is a genus of Old World night herons typically found near water in forested regions. These are medium-sized herons which are migratory in the colder parts of their ranges, but otherwise resident. They are the least known, most strictly nocturnal, smallest and overall rarest night herons. Three of the four species are found in East, South and South-east Asia, while the last species, the White-backed Night Heron, is found in sub-Saharan Africa. The Japanese and Malayan Night Herons resemble each other, being relatively short-billed and overall brown with a dark line from the throat to the upper belly. The larger White-eared and White-backed Night Herons are darker, with distinctive white markings on the face and neck in the former, and an entirely black head in the latter. While generally nocturnal and crepuscular, they have been recorded feeding during the day in clouded weather

Physical charateristics

Secretive, boldly patterned night-heron. Males have blackish head and nape plumes, white postocular stripe, cheek-stripe and throat, broad blackish line down neck side, brown underparts with whitish streaks/scales and orange-buff to rufous-chestnut rear neck sides. Females have less distinct head and neck pattern, whitish streaks and spots on back and wings (particularly wing-coverts) and shorter nape plumes. Juvenile resembles female, but dark parts of plumage browner, has heavier whitish to buff spots above

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 52 cm size max.: 54 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Oriental Region : South, East China. Gorsachius magnificus is known from southern China and north-east Vietnam. Extensive survey effort has recently resulted in records from Hunan, Hubei, Zheijian, Anhui, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Xinping, Guangdong, Yunnan and Fujian provinces and it was last recorded on Hainan in 1962


Its ecology is poorly known. It occurs in subtropical and tropical forest, with recent records from sites close to streams, rivers, reservoirs and rice-fields (close to or within forest).


Little known. The species does not nest in heronries and lays 3-5 eggs. One nest found in bamboo.

Feeding habits

Diet includes small fish, shrimps and invertebrates, and it appears to be almost entirely nocturnal


This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small, fragmented population which is undergoing a continuing decline as a result of hunting and forest clearance, primarily owing to demands for timber and agricultural land. The species may warrant downlisting in the future should data prove that the recent increase in its known range also corresponds to an increase in the known population.
A key threat is forest clearance and fragmentation, primarily as a result of demands for timber and agricultural land in an extremely densely populated region. Although the species can nest in human modified habitats, vulnerability of monocultures to pest invasion is a risk. Human disturbance may cause this secretive bird to abandon eggs while incubating. Hunting is a major additional threat, even inside protected areas, and it may be particularly vulnerable when nesting. In recent years, a relatively high number of specimens have been collected for scientific purposes. Direct habitat damage for dam construction, river regulation and road building has driven birds from known sites, but counter-intuitively it also creates new habitats in some cases. The impact of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is unknown.
White-eared Night Heron status Endangered


Little known. The few data available suggest that N population moves S in Oct to winter in Hainan (S china); no evidence of wintering further S. Vagrant to N Viet Nam.

Distribution map

White-eared Night Heron distribution range map

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