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Butorides striatus (Greenbacked heron, Striated heron) 

[= Butorides striatus

Groenrugreier [Afrikaans]; Hakaruu (generic term for short-necked herons and bitterns) [Kwangali]; Mangrovereiger striated, little, green-backed [Dutch]; Héron strié [French]; Mangrovereiher [German]; Garça-de-dorso-verde [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Ardeidae

Butorides striatus (Greenbacked heron, Striated heron) Butorides striatus (Greenbacked heron, Striated heron)
Green-backed heron. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Green-backed heron. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across southern Asia, the Americas, Australia and sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is uncommon to locally abundant in patches of Namibia (especially the Caprivi Strip), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern  Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers well-wooded shorelines of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, mangroves, estuaries and swamps, occasionally moving into more open areas such as mudflats, flooded grassland and the seashore.

Distribution of Green-backed heron in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Generally sedentary, although it may move locally in response to recent rainfall.


It mainly eats fish and other aquatic animals, doing most of its foraging by lurking in a crouched posture at the water's edge, grabbing anything unfortunate enough to come within range. It may also use an insect, spider, piece of bread or paper as a bait (as seen in the sequence of photos below), snapping up any prey large enough to swallow. Perch-hunting has also been recorded, as it can uses its strong eyesight to spot prey in the water, before diving in feet-first and sometimes completely submerging itself. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Butorides striatus (Greenbacked heron, Striated heron)

Green-backed heron holding dragonfly. It catches dragonflies not to eat, but to use as bait for fishing. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Butorides striatus (Greenbacked heron, Striated heron)

Green-backed heron, waiting for fish to take the bait. If the dragonfly goes out of range, it positions it closer, so that it can reach it with it's beak.  [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Butorides striatus (Greenbacked heron, Striated heron)

Green-backed heron holding fish. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

  • Vertebrates
    • fish
      • Periophthalmus (mudskippers)
    • frogs
      • Xenopus (platannas)
    • reptiles
  • Invertebrates


  • Monogamous and usually a solitary nester, although it occasionally breeds in colonies of 5-15 nests in the same tree.
  • The nest is a flimsy, saucer-shaped platform of sticks, twigs and reeds, typically concealed on a branch of a tree or bush near water.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, generally peaking after rains.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 21-27 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents and brooded for the three weeks of their lives, at which point they are able to fly weakly. They are capable of flying strongly at 34-35 days old.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.