Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Green-backed Heron (Butorides striata)


French: Héron strié German: Mangrovereiher Spanish: Garcita verdosa

Ardea striata


, 1758,



Races virescens (distinguished by maroon-chestnut vs grey neck sides and breast sides; score 3) and sundevalli (distinguished by all-black body plumage; potential score 4) often raised to full species; proposed taxon “patens” of C Panama is invalid, based on hybrids between virescens and striata, which occur in a variety of intermediate forms#R (indeed, considerable variation exists even within the form virescens#R); hybrid zone between virescens and striata narrow and stable, and interpreted in recent analysis to be evidence of species status for virescens#R (additional score 2, total 5); but separation of virescens would leave South American taxa conspecific with Old World taxa, a situation that seems improbable. In Galapagos variation may be a polymorphism, and far less distinctive individuals exist, with no genetic separation yet found#R. Race chloriceps synonymized with javanica by some authors#R#R. Race flyensis previously subsumed within littleri, and both of those often synonymized with macrorhyncha. Race robinsoni (Margarita I, N Venezuela) generally considered undiagnosable. Thirty-three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. s. anthonyi (Mearns, 1895) – SW Canada, W USA and extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California).
  • B. s. frazari (Brewster, 1888) – S Baja California.
  • B. s. virescens (Linnaeus, 1758) – Green Heron – C & E USA (E from North Dakota and C Texas) and SE Canada S to Panama and Caribbean.
  • B. s. bahamensis (Brewster, 1888) – Bahamas.
  • B. s. sundevalli (Reichenow, 1877) – Lava Heron – Galapagos Is.
  • B. s. striata (Linnaeus, 1758) – Striated Heron – E Panama and all S America S to N Chile and N Argentina.
  • B. s. atricapilla (Afzelius, 1804) – Africa S of Sahara (S to Namibia and C & E South Africa) and islands in Gulf of Guinea.
  • B. s. brevipes (Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1833) – coasts of Red Sea and N Somalia.
  • B. s. rutenbergi (Hartlaub, 1880) – Madagascar.
  • B. s. crawfordi Nicoll, 1906 – Aldabra and Amirante Is.
  • B. s. rhizophorae Salomonsen, 1934 – Comoros Is.
  • B. s. degens E. J. O. Hartert, 1920 – Seychelles.
  • B. s. didi W. W. A. Phillips & Sims, 1958 – N Maldive Is.
  • B. s. albidula Bangs, 1913 – S Maldives.
  • B. s. spodiogaster Sharpe, 1894 – Andamans, Nicobars and islands off W Sumatra (Simeulue to Pagai Is).
  • B. s. albolimbata Reichenow, 1900 – Chagos Archipelago (including Diego Garcia).
  • B. s. chloriceps (Bonaparte, 1855) – Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka.
  • B. s. javanica (Horsfield, 1821) – Myanmar and Thailand S to Greater Sundas; Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues.
  • B. s. amurensis (Schrenck, 1860) – Russian Far East, Sakhalin, NE China (S to Shandong), Korea, Japan, Ryukyu Is and Bonin Is; migrates S to Malay Peninsula, Greater Sundas, Philippines and N Sulawesi.
  • B. s. actophila Oberholser, 1912 – C & E China S to N Vietnam and N Myanmar.
  • B. s. carcinophila Oberholser, 1924 – Taiwan, Philippines and Sulawesi.
  • B. s. steini Mayr, 1943 – Lesser Sundas.
  • B. s. moluccarum E. J. O. Hartert, 1920 – Moluccas.
  • B. s. papuensis Mayr, 1940 – W Papuan Is (Waigeo, Misool), lowlands of NW New Guinea (including islands in Geelvink Bay) and Aru Is.
  • B. s. idenburgi Rand, 1941 – NC New Guinea.
  • B. s. flyensis Salomonsen, 1966 – coastal SC & SE New Guinea.
  • B. s. rogersi Mathews, 1911 – NW Western Australia.
  • B. s. cinerea Mayr, 1943 – NE Western Australia.
  • B. s. stagnatilis (Gould, 1848) – NC Australia.
  • B. s. littleri Mathews, 1912 – NE Australia (NE Queensland).
  • B. s. macrorhyncha (Gould, 1848) – E Australia, New Caledonia, Loyalty Is.
  • B. s. solomonensis Mayr, 1940 – Melanesia from New Hanover to W Fiji.
  • B. s. patruelis (Peale, 1848) – Tahiti, Society Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    35–48 cm; 125–260 g (virescens), 162 g (striata), 153–232·5 g (javanica), 145–220 g (carcinophila), 226 g... read more


    Most characteristic, being given in alarm, flight and advertisement, is “skeow” call (also “skow”... read more


    Frequents fresh and salt water alike. Typically in mangroves, or in dense vegetation along streams... read more

    Food and feeding

    Varies considerably with region and is probably opportunistic to some degree, e.g. observed following wild pigs feeding on disturbed prey.... read more


    Season very variable; in tropics related to rains, e.g. Jan–Sept in Thai-Malay Peninsula, Mar–Jun in Java, Nov–Apr in N... read more


    Majority of races sedentary, most northerly races migratory. Race virescens passes through... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common to locally abundant throughout almost cosmopolitan range; few details available on population sizes, and difficult... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Green-backed Heron (Butorides striata). 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 27 January 2020).