Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

White-backed Night-heron (Calherodius leuconotus)


French: Bihoreau à dos blanc German: Weißrückenreiher Spanish: Martinete encapuchado

Ardea leuconotus


, 1827,



Frequently placed in Gorsachius, but is apparently closer to N. nycticorax. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. l. leuconotus (Wagler, 1827) – Senegal E to SW Nigeria.
  • C. l. natalensis Roberts, 1933 – scattered populations from Cameroon to E Sudan, W Ethiopia and N Angola, and through DRCongo E to Tanzania and S to N Botswana and E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    50–56 cm. Sexes alike. Black and relatively large head with short, densely-feathered crest and huge-looking eyes, rufous-brown neck, white chin; usually inconspicuous... read more


    Considered to be generally quiet, but a growling “taash, taash, taash”, followed by short trill, “... read more


    Forested zones with dense vegetation along streams, islands in large rivers, wooded margins of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Little known. Apparently feeds on small fish, amphibians, molluscs, crustaceans, flying ants, flies and other insects. Usually solitary or... read more


    Season very variable; in equatorial zone, during rains or early in dry season, when floods highest, e.g. Jul–Jan and Mar–Apr in... read more


    Very little known. Appears to perform seasonal movements related with onset of rains, but more... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread; generally rare to uncommon, e.g. in Liberia, where known from single records at just five localities and Ethiopia, where... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). White-backed Night-heron (Calherodius leuconotus). 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 13 December 2019).