Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Malay Night-heron (Gorsachius melanolophus)


French: Bihoreau malais German: Wellenreiher Spanish: Martinete malayo
Other common names: Malayan Night-heron, Malaysian Night-heron

Ardea melanolopha


, 1822,

western Sumatra


Probably most closely related to G. goisagi. Proposed races rufolineatus (Palawan, in W Philippines) and kutteri (rest of Philippines) considered indistinguishable from nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. m. melanolophus (Raffles, 1922) – SW India in Western Ghats (S to Nilgiris and S Kerala); NE India (Assam) E to S China, Taiwan and Ryukyu Is, S through SE Asia to Philippines; winters in Sri Lanka, Malay Peninsula and Greater Sundas.
  • G. m. minor Hachisuka, 1926 – Nicobar Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    45–51 cm; 377–451 g; wingspan 86–87 cm. Identified by rufous neck, black cap and crest, white-tipped primaries and chestnut-barred back; separated from ... read more


    Several calls described including “arh, arh, arh” in flight, a single low-pitched “kwok” similar to... read more


    Lowland wooded swamps, streams and marshes in dense tropical and subtropical forest in areas of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects (e.g. beetles), molluscs, large earthworms, frogs, lizards, snakes and probably to lesser extent small fish. In S Japan,... read more


    Very little known. In SW India, May–Aug during heavy rains; in Assam (NE India) and Bangladesh, mainly May–Jun, but fledgling... read more


    Little known. Partial migrant: at least some from SW India apparently migrate in Oct/Nov to Sri... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Previously considered Near Threatened and population is overall estimated at 2000–20,000 individuals, or 1300–13,000... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Malay Night-heron (Gorsachius melanolophus). 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 6 April 2020).