Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius)


French: Savacou huppé German: Kahnschnabel Spanish: Martinete cucharón

Cancroma Cochlearia


, 1766,



The three N subspecies are sometimes considered a separate species, C. zeledoni, on basis of buff-grey vs white breast and lower face (3) and darker upperparts (1), but no other differences apparent; birds from NW Costa Rica, currently placed in race panamensis, are intermediate between the two groups. Five subspecies normally recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. zeledoni (Ridgway, 1885) – Northern Boat-billed Heron – WC Mexico (Sinaloa to Guerrero).
  • C. c. phillipsi Dickerman, 1973 – E Mexico (S Tamaulipas to Quintana Roo), Belize and N Guatemala.
  • C. c. ridgwayi Dickerman, 1973 – S Mexico to W Costa Rica.
  • C. c. panamensis Griscom, 1926 – E Costa Rica and Panama, and NW Colombia (Chocó).
  • C. c. cochlearius Linnaeus, 1766 – Southern Boat-billed Heron – E Panama to the Guianas, and Amazonia S to E Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and NE Argentina.
  • Descriptive notes

    45–53·5 cm; male 680–770 g, female 503–726 g. Very distinctive heron, most likely to be confused with widely sympatric Nycticorax nycticorax... read more


    Vocalizes frequently, giving “an, an, an, an” or “oh, oh, an-an” in flight or when fleeing... read more


    Mangroves and other kinds of dense forest along coastal rivers, margins of freshwater creeks, lakes... read more

    Food and feeding

    Variety of shrimps (Panaeus, Macrobrachium), other crustacea, insects, amphibians and fish (Mugil, ... read more


    Season related to rains: Jun–Jul in W Mexico; at least Mar–Jun in Honduras; Feb–Jul in E Costa Rica; Jun–Sept in N... read more


    Basically sedentary. Mainly recorded during dry season at some well-inventoried localities in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread, generally found in all suitable habitat within range; no details available on true status and population sizes. Common... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 February 2020).