Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Critically Endangered

White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis)


French: Héron impérial German: Kaiserreiher Spanish: Garza ventriblanca

Ardea insignis

A. O. Hume

, 1878,

Sikkim terai, Bhutan duars, etc


Name A. imperialis, occasionally applied to this species, is a junior synonym of present name. Closely related to A. sumatrana. Monotypic.


Southern foothills of E Himalayas in Bhutan, NE India and N Myanmar. Formerly occurred widely over C & E India, Nepal (extinct) and at least W & C Myanmar; may occur still in SE Tibet. Individuals visit the Brahmaputra lowlands in winter.

Descriptive notes

127 cm; bill 152–176 mm. Robust bird with fairly uniform plumage contrasting with white belly. Breeding bird has long silvery or whitish plumes on rear crown and lower... read more


A loud, deep croak, rendered “ock ock ock ock urrrrrr”, or “auk auk auk urrrrrr”, has been... read more


Inland swamps, marshes, terai and stretches of rivers and streams in subtropical broadleaf... read more

Food and feeding

Very little known, but probably specialized in large fish, large crayfish and insects, and perhaps also amphibians, reptiles and small... read more


Very little known, prior to 2007 only three nests had been described (none for over 60 years until 2003), but several nests were discovered... read more


Mostly sedentary, but old records from Toungoo and Pegu (SE Burma) and Tamil Nadu (S India, though... read more

Status and conservation

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. Previously considered Endangered. Population thought to number just 50–249 mature individuals (of which c. 50 in Bhutan), despite large potential... read more

Recommended citation

Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis). 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 23 January 2020).