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Overview

Brief Summary

The White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus) got its name from not only its appearance, but also its preference for nocturnal activity- this bird is primarily active at night time and rarely ventures from its roosting site prior to sunset. The White-eared Night Heron was first discovered in the 1890s on Hainan Island, Wuzhi Shan, Qiongzhong County, China (Fellowes et al 2001). Since then, confirmed records of white-eared night heron have been sparse and scattered throughout China and Vietnam. From 2004-2006 the largest population was documented in the Thousand Island Region in southeast China (Li et. al. 2007). In 1988, Gorsachius magnificus was catagorized as a threatened species, and by 1994 it was declared to be a critically endangered species by the IUCN. This label lasted until 2000 when the category was changed to endangered, as it has remained until present. Currently, little is known about the global species abundance, but it is considered to be endangered verging on critically endangered.

A white wedge-shape patch extending from the eye gives the species its name. These are smaller herons, with males only getting to be about 55cm tall and females are even smaller. Being located near streams, rice fields, and marshes these herons mostly feed on small fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates (Birdlife Species Champion, 2012). During night they like to forage singly or in isolated pairs near the ground (IUCN-SSC Heron Specialist Group, 2011).

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Distribution

Range Description

Gorsachius magnificus is known from southern China and northern Vietnam (BirdLife International 2001). By 2001, the species was known from c.20 localities, but since then extensive survey effort and increased awareness have resulted in records from more than 30 new localities (He Fenqi et al. 2011). There are records from Hunan, Hubei, Zheijian, Anhui, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Xinping, Guangdong, Yunnan, Fujian, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, and it was last recorded on Hainan in 1962 (Gao Yuren 2003, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden 2003, He Fenqi and Lin Jiansheng 2004, He Fenqi et al. 2007a,b, M. Crosby in litt. 2009, He Fenqi et al. 2011). There are also recent records from northern Vietnam (including Ba Be National Park, Bac Kan province, and Na Hang Nature Reserve, Tuyen Quang province), among them the first and subsequent breeding records for the country (Anon. 2001, Nguyen Cu 2008, Eames and Le Manh Hung 2009, Pilgrim et al. 2009, J. Pilgrim in litt. 2009, Walsh 2010). Direct observations and information from local people suggest that there is a minimum of seven pairs in the Xuan Lac and Ba Be areas of Bac Kan province (Walsh 2010). The degree of connectivity between populations is poorly understood. The rate of discovery of new sites has led to considerable extension of its known range and suggests the species has been under-recorded and may breed across a wider range in southern China and northern Indochina (He Fenqi et al. 2007a,b, 2011). However, significant threats to the species and its habitats remain and as a result a continuing decline is inferred.

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Range

Highlands of Hainan; ranges to adjacent se China.

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White-eared Night Heron have been observed primarily in subtropical and tropical regions of south-east China over the last century. After the initial discovery of the White-eared Night Heron on Hainan Island, Wuzhi Shan Province, China in 1890, its known range spread into the surrounding mountains, where the skin of a White-eared Night Heron specimen was collected in March 1899 (He et al., 2011). The next recorded sighting of a White-eared Night Heron was in July of 1901 in Huoshan County of Anhui Province, China. In January of the following year, a female was sighted in Chongyang County of Hubei Province just west of the sighting in Anhui. A male White-eared Night Heron was next collected near Fuzhou County of Fujian Province, China in October of 1911, with sightings of a pair in 1913. Another pair was identified near Lingshi Si County of Fujian Province in the summer of 1929. In April of that same year, a male White-eared- Night Heron was collected in Dayao Shan Nature Reserve in Guangxi Province, China. In December of 1944, a female was spotted again in Fujian Province in Shaowu County. White-eared Night Heron were first recorded to have dispersed into Tianmu Shan County of Zhejiang Province in May of 1954 when a male and female pair was spotted. Three years later, a female was spotted, in this same County in July of 1957. Huashi Shan of Guangdong Province recorded a sighting of a male White-eared Night Heron in March of 1960(BirdLife International, 2012). In April of 1961, a female was sighted in Baisha county on Hainan Island for the first time since 1899 and was last recorded to be on Hainan in 1962 (BirdLife Species Champion 2011). In 1975, the first record of White-eared Night Heron was made in northern Vietnam, near Son Tay in Ha Tay Province. Sightings in the 1990s included three within the Nanning District of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region in June 1990, October 1992, and January 1993 and several in Shennongjia Nature Reserve of Hubei Province between 1993 and 1999(Fellowes 2001). Several White-eared Night Herons were also collected in Chebaling Nature Reserve in Quangdong Province between 1993 and 2000 including 4 juveniles and at least 4 different adults (Birdlife International 2012). After 25 years without records in Vietnam, a White-eared Night Heron was observed in Back an Province in 2001. The Thousand Island Lakes region of Zhejiang Province of China was found for the first time to house a small population of White-eared Night Herons in May of 2004, when 6 adults and 4 juveniles were identified. Over the next three years, six nests and sixteen eggs were recorded with thirteen nestlings surviving to fledging and a total of seven breeding pairs (Li et al., 2007). Most recently, reports of a White-eared Night Heron in Bac Kan Province of Vietnam were made in 2008 and 2009 (Pilgrim 2009). It has been suggested that dispersal occurred to the north prior to southern movement and that Hainan is or was once a wintering area for birds from further north ( IUCN-SSC Heron Specialist Group, 2011).

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Physical Description

Morphology

The White-Eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus) is a medium-sized brown heron with a brown streaked breast and a white patch on the side of its head. The male adult exhibits the most profound markings, having a black crown with a brown-black crest and the remainder of the head patterned in white and brown patches. A white wedge-shaped patch extends back from the eye, separating the brown black cheek patch extending from the crown to the bill from the cap. A narrower white line descends diagonally from the eye, and the chin and upper throat are white (Pilgrim et al 2009). The white feathers have dusky centers, giving the white patches a mottled appearance. The lores and skin around the eye are yellow green, and the irises are a dark yellow. The upper bill is black while the lower bill is also black with a green-yellow tinge at the base. The front of the throat has a vertical streak down its middle and is blacker towards the head and browner descending onto the breast. Moving from the side to the back of the neck are three patches: lateral to the central throat stripe is a white line descending from the white lower cheek, a broad black-brown line ascends from the dark shoulder, and a broad buff yellow patch merging to chestnut orange is at the very rear of the neck sides. The upper back is dark grey-brown with a slightly purple tinge, occasionally having a few white spots on the lower back. Flight feathers are slate, thighs are a dark reddish-brown, and the legs are green. The underside of the breast is a mottled brown and white (Heron Specialist Group 2011). Average length of adult males is approximately 54-56 cm (BirdLife Champion 2011).

Females have less prominent coloring on the head and neck, while the back and wings have a more mottled appearance, with a higher occurrence of white spots and streaks, particularly on the upper wing. Female crest feathers are shorter than the males. Juvenile White-Eared Night Herons have predominantly brown feathering spotted with buff or white (Heron Specialist Group 2011).

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Size

Average length of adult males is approximately 54-56 cm (BirdLife Champion 2011).

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Look Alikes

Distinguishing features of the White-eared Night Heron include its dark base color contrasting with white ears and throat, and a short bill length (King, 2005). Common look-a-likes include the Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) and the Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis). It also could be mistaken for Little Heron (Butorides striatus) and Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) (Pilgrim et al. 2009). The White-eared Night Heron can be distinguished from the Malayan Night Heron by its tricolored neck, darker sides, and slate flight feathers (Heron Specialist Group 2011). Additionally, White-eared Night Herons can be distinguished from Black Bitterns by their shorter, thicker bill, shorter neck, short foot projection beyond the tail tip and stouter appearance (King, 2005). Light Heron (Butorides striatus) can be distinguished by its smaller size (41-47cm) and slate-grey with some greenish gloss colored head crest and back of neck (Wang, 2007). The Chinese Pond-Heron (Ardeola baccus) can be distinguished by its red-brown head and neck and yellow bill (Avibirds 2012). Another look alike is the Black crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax (Pilgrim et al. 2009).

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Its ecology is poorly known. It occurs in subtropical and tropical forest, with recent records from sites close to streams, rivers, reservoirs and rice-fields (close to or within forest). Its ability to persist in modified habitats is also demonstrated by its presence as a breeding species in a low-integrity plantation forest in Nanning (He Fenqi et al. 2007a) and secondary pine forest on reservoir islands in Zhejiang (per Eames and Le Manh Hung 2009). Its diet includes small fish, shrimps and invertebrates, and it appears to be almost entirely nocturnal (Pilgrim et al. 2009). The species does not nest in heronries and lays 3-5 eggs (Li et al. 2007).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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White-eared Night Herons prefer to roost in areas near extensive primary and secondary forests, with streams, rice fields, marshes and mountains (Fellowes et. al. 2001). Though the optimal habitat for the species is primary forest with adjoining rice fields, marshes and slow-flowing streams that constitute good areas for foraging, pristine habitat is not essential. In the evening, White-eared Night Herons roost in high trees near a source of water and often in or directly adjacent to subtropical forests (Li et al. 2007). While White-eared Night Herons are active at night for foraging and movement, during the daytime birds retreat into the forest, usually within 500m of streams or inundated fields (Fellowes et. al 2001). Due to the lack of forests remaining in low-lying flat areas, recent recordings of White-eared Night Heron report them almost exclusively from hilly and lower to middle mountainous areas, though they have generally been recorded below 1300 m altitude (Fellowes et al 2001). Gorsachius magnificus likes to roost in high trees in the evening, near streams and rivers, reservoirs and paddy fields, in or adjacent to subtropical forests on the lower and middle slopes of mountains (IUCN-SSC heron specialist group, 2011).

White-eared Night Herons have recently started moving into areas of secondary pine (Pinus halepensis) (average 11m in height) forest in the Thousand Island Lakes subtropical monsoon zones of China, presumably due to habitat degradation (Li et. al. 2007). This report from the Thousand Island Lakes region indicates that White-eared Night Heron prefer isolated habitats on smaller islands of approximately 2000-6000 m2, with few other individuals of the species present(area was claimed to be a reservoir in 1959 once dam was built). The islands are in close range, with the nearest-island distance of about 100 m (Li et. al. 2007). Other confirmed roosting sites of White-eared Night Heron in secondary forest include Nahuang Cun, Nazao Cun and Chebaling, within 40 km of areas of extensive primary forests (Fellowes et. al. 2001). In Nahuang Cun, White-eared Night Herons have been reported to roost in young broadleaf trees, including Breynia fruticosa, Litsea glutinosa, Cinnamomum porrectum, and Macaranga denticulate (Fellowes 2001). Here the area is a shallow ravine on shrub-covered hillside and is within 500m of paddy fields and a stream. They have known to nest in oak (Quercus acutissima) in Hubei Province, and bamboo forest and pine in Fujian Province. Nesting has taken place in Pinus massoniana plantation 50m from wide stream, placed 7-10m above ground in 10-12m tall trees (Birdlife International, 2001).

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Migration

The White-eared Night Heron is believed to be a summer visitor to the northern-most parts of its range. In October, the White-eared Night Heron appearently moves south to winter in Hainan as well as south-east Asia. The White-eared Night Heron has been recorded in Hubei and Guangxi, (possibly non-migratory in Guangxi) as late as January, Guangdong in March as well as Fujian in December and March, which indicates that its migratory status is still questionable. The White-eared Night Heron is also suggested to be a migrant to northern Vietnam, being primarily spotted in the Bac Kan Province in March and early April (Pilgrim 2009). Migratory status is still questionable, but the IUCN classifies this heron as a full migrant (IUCN Red List Criteria fact sheet, 2012).

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Dispersal

The White-eared Night Heron is common among subtropical and tropical regions of south-east China and northern Vietnam. Most sightings were in reserves, farms, and markets (last sighting in 2005).

Dated sightings: Hubei-Shennongjia Nature Reserve(1902, 93-99), Anhui (1901-02), Zhejiang (1954-early 60s), Guangdong-Chebaling National Nature Reserve (1960, 1993-00), in the mountains of Hainan Island (1899, 1961-62), and finally Ban Thi-Xuan Lac (1975)(Birdlife International, 2012).

Historical sightings: In 1990, 1992, and 1993 there was known sightings of the White-eared Night Heron within the Nanning District of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (Longhushan, Xianhu Reservoir & Nada, and Loxu). 1994 had five sightings within the District’s Damingshan Nature Reserve. 1998 Nanning and Shixing County had one each. 1999 Duheng Village had two found in a farm by a main stream. Three injured ones were found this year near Nahuang Cun, Fusui County; Datang Village; and Fengtinghe Reservoir. In Guangxi and Shajing town (suburb of Nanning) had two for sale in the market (Fellowes, J., et. al. 2001 and Fen-Qi. et. al. 2007).

More recent sightings: In 2000 nesting sites were found by a stream in Nazao within a Pinus massoniana plantation. Also more nesting sites found in Nahuang Cun of this year and more in Biannian Village, Guangxi and near Chebaling National Nature Reserve, Guangdong (sightings). Suspicion of more populations due to historical sightings: Guangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian, and Zhejiang, but not confirmed (Fellowes, J., et. al. 2001). There is a known population of a u-shape within the (NE)Hunan and (NW)Jiangxi provinces, but connectivity is lacking within these locations.

Sightings Elsewhere: Dayao Shan Nature Reserve, Houhe Nature Reserve, Huashui Shan, Jianfengling Nature Reserve, Jiulianshan Nature Reserve, Jiangkou Xiang-Mashi Zhen, Longhu Shan, Pingnan Dapeng, and Qiandao Hu Reservoir (IUCN Red List Criteria Factsheet, 2012). Vietnam includesBa Be National Park and Na Hang Nature Reserve(Birdlife Species Champion, 2011).

Chinese Provinces: Hunan, Zheijian, Jiangxi, Xinping, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan in China, Bac Kan and Tuyen Quang in Vietnam(Birdlife Species Champion, 2011).

It is believed that dispersal occurred to the north prior to southern movement and that Hainan is or was once a wintering area for birds from further north (IUCN-SSC Heron Specialist Group, 2011).

It is known that the White-eared Night Heron breeds and is probably a resident of Northern Vietnam (Pilgrim et al. 2009).

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Associations

These herons mostly eat small fish, shrimp, and invertebrates (Pilgrim et. al. 2009).

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Population Biology

Populations have been estimated to be between 250-999 adults as of 2005. China has been estimated to have less than 100 breeding pairs. Between Vietnam and China, the total number of White-eared Night Herons is estimated to be between 350-1500 individuals (BirdLife Species Champion, 2012).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

The herons are silent when flying to the feeding grounds at night (Fellowes et. al. 2001). They are known to breed in pairs. When a nest is established one heron keeps the egg warm while the other stands on a branch nearby as a sentinel (Li et al., 2007).

The territorial call of this heron is a deep-throaty, raspy "whoa" that lasts for about 0.3 seconds. This call gets as loud as 0.2-0.5kHz and it is repeated every 5-15 seconds. King (2005) describes this call as similar to that of a large owl.

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Life Cycle

Juvenile White-Eared Night Herons have predominantly brown feathering spotted with buff or white (Heron Specialist Group 2011). When they become adults they have more spots on their chest, and some orange on the neck. Their body is a dark brown and the crown is black (Pilgrim et al. 2009).

Females begin to carry eggs as early as the start of March and lay eggs towards the end of April. After the 25 day incubation period, eggs hatch in early May (usually between the 3-13th). Fledglings and young birds are observed in June and are considered juveniles by mid-August (Pilgrim 2009).

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Reproduction

White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus) breeding strategies have been most thoroughly examined in the Thousand Island Lake region, Zhejiang Province, P.R. China. In the Thousand Island Lake region, no more than one Gorsachius magnificus nest was observed per island per breeding season and no other heron species nested or colonized the same island where the White-eared Night-heron nested. White-eared Night-herons are solitary nesters and do not nest in heronries like most heron species. Nesting islands were relatively small. The White-eared Night Heron builds their nests with thin pine branches. Nest building can take two weeks’ time. The White-eared Night Heron forms a disk shaped nest high in the pine tree, no higher than 7m from the ground. The construction of the nest occurred over a two week period. Thin withered pine branches were arranged to form a disk-like external rim to the nest, with diameters ranging from 25-70 cm. They position their nest on two crossing branches with the main branch being as parallel to the ground as possible. The nests also need to be within 5-8m of a water front. Eggs are an ovoid shape with white speckles on a pale blue background. Eggs averaged a size of 6.5cm long and 3.5cm wide. Incubation period is about 25 days long. Clutch size is 3-5. Nestlings hatch consecutively and (at this particular study area) all nestlings survived to fledge. During breeding the adult Herons take turns incubating the young and foraging at night. During the day one heron typically is in the nest and the other is on a nearby branch. At night, one adult leaves the nest to gather food from nearby water sources and promptly returns to the nest to feed nestlings. Breeding in Daming Shan Mountains in Guangxi, China occurs at 1200m and the birds winter at altitudes below 500m. Nests are 4-10m above ground positioned against the trunks, 2m from tree tops.

Other confirmed White-eared Night-heron nesting sites include Nahuang Cun, South China and Chebaling National Nature Reserve. Both of these nesting sites were in secondary forests no more than 40km from areas of primary forest (Fellowes et al. 2001). White-eared Night-heron has also been observed as a breeding species in a low-integrity plantation forest in Nanning (BirdLife Species Champion 2011).

A White-eared Night-heron nestling was caught swimming in the Gam reservoir in the Na Hang Nature Reserve in Vietnam on May 5, 2008 indicating the Na Hang Nature Reserve as a breeding site of at least one pair. The caught heron was photographed as a juvenile in early June of 2008 (Walsh 2008).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Little is known about the genetic compostion of the White-eared Night Heron. The only known genes to have been sequenced are the MHC class II antigne beta gene alleles.

Gorsachius magnificus MHC class II antigen beta (Goma-DAB1) gene, Goma-DAB1*01 allele, exons 2, 3 and partial cdsLOCUS: HM991024 656 bp DNA linear VRT 14-OCT-2011ORIGIN 1 gttttccagg aattctctac gtttgagtgt cactacctga acggcaccga gcgcgtcagg61 tttttgcaca ggtacatcca caaccggcag cagctctcac acttcgacag cgacgtgggg 121 ctccatgtgg ccgacagccc cctgggcgag tccattgcca agtactggaa cagccagacg181 gccatactgg aggacagacg ggctgctgtg gacaggttct gcagatacaa ctacggggtg241 tcgacccctt tctctgtgga taggaggggt gagcgcgtgg cagaacattt ccctggggga301 tgggcacagg ccaagcctcc gggctcgcgg gaggggagag cgtggccgtg tcggcctcgg361 gcagggcccc gggcgagcaa agcccctgcg tccttccatg aggacacgag tccctcacac421 cctccctggg cacgcctggc gtgggcacca cagggacagc cctgggccag gctggggggt481 ccctgtgctc tcccagctcc tccccagcat gcgctcactc tcccccagtt cagcccgagg541 tggaaatcta cccgatgcag tcgggctccc tgccccagac tgacaggctg gtttgtgccg601 tgatggattt ctacccggcg gagattgagg tgaagtggtt caagaacggg caggag

Gorsachius magnificus MHC class II antigen beta (Goma-DAB2) gene, Goma-DAB2*01 allele, exons 2, 3 and partial cds

LOCUS HM991048 656 bp DNA linear VRT 14-OCT-2011ORIGIN 1 tatctacagt tccagtttaa gtgcgactgt tactacacca atggcaccga gcgggtgaag61 tatgtgaaga ggtacatcca caaccggcag cagctcgtgc acttcgacag cgatctgggg121 ctccatgtgg ccgacagccc cctgggcgag tccattgcca agtactggaa aagtcagcca181 gacatactgg agaatgacct ggctgaggtg gacagggtct gccgaaacaa ctacagggtg241 tcgacccctt tctctgtgga taggagaggt gagcgcgtgg cagaacattt ccctggggga301 tgggcacagg ccaagcctcc gggctcgcgg gaggggagag cgtggccgtg tcggcctcgg361 gcagggcccc gggcgagcaa agcccctgcg tccttccatg aggacacgag tccctcacac421 cctccctggg cacgcctggc gtgggcacca cagggacagc cctgggccag gctggggggt481 ccctgtgctc tcccagctcc tccccagcac gcgctcactc tcccccagtt cagcccgagg541 tggaaatcta cccgatgcag tcgggctccc tgccccagac cgacaggctg gtttgtgccg601 tgatggattt ctacccagcg gagattgagg tgaagtggtt caagaacggg caggag

Gorsachius magnificus MHC class II antigen beta (Goma-DAB1) gene, Goma-DAB1*02 allele, exons 2, 3 and partial cdsLOCUS HM991025 656 bp DNA linear VRT 14-OCT-2011ORIGIN 1 gttttccagg aattctctac gtttgagtgt cactacctga acggcaccga gcgcgtcagg61 tttttgcaca ggtacatcca caaccggcag cagctctcac acttcgacag cgacgtgggg121 ctctatgtgg ccgacagccc cctgggcgag tccattgcca agtactggaa cagccagacg181 gccatactgg aggacagacg ggctgctgtg gacaggttct gcagatacaa ctacggggtg241 tcgacccctt tctctgtggg taggagaggt gagcgcgtgg cagaacattt ccctggggga301 tgggcacagg ccaagcctcc gggctcgcag gaggggagag cgtggccgtg tcggcctcgg361 gcagggcccc gggcgagcaa agcccctgcg tccttccatg aggacacgag tccctcacac421 cctccctggg cacgcctggc gtgggcacca cagggacagc cctgggccag gctggggggt481 ccctgtgctc tcccagctcc tccccagcac gcgctcactc acccccagtt cagcccgagg541 tggaaatcta ccagatgcag tcgggctccc tgccccagac cgacaggctg gtttgtgccg601 tgatggattt ctacccggcg gagattgagg tgaagtggtt caagaacggc caggag

Gorsachius magnificus MHC class II antigen beta (Goma-DAB2) gene, Goma-DAB2*02 allele, exon 2 and partial cds

LOCUS HM991049 270 bp DNA linear VRT 14-OCT-2011ORIGIN 1 tatctacagt tccagtttaa gtgcgactgt tactacacca atggcaccga gcgggtgaag61 tatgtgaaga ggtacatcca caaccggcag cagctcgtgc acttcgacaa cgatctgggg121 ctccatgtgg ccgacagccc cctgggcgag tccattgcca agtactggaa aagtcagcca181 gacatactgg agaatgacct ggctgacgtg gacagggtct gccgaaacaa ctacagggtg241 tcgacccctt tctctgtgga taggagaggt

(Li, L. et. al. 2011)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
C2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Crosby, M., Fellowes, J., Hafner, H., He, F., Kushlan, J., Lau, M. & Pilgrim, J.

Justification
This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small, fragmented population which is undergoing a continuing decline as a result of hunting and forest clearance, primarily owing to demands for timber and agricultural land. The species may warrant downlisting in the future should data prove that the recent increase in its known range also corresponds to an increase in the known population.


History
  • 2012
    Endangered
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The White-eared Night Heron is possibly one of the most endangered herons in the world (Fellowes et al, 2001). Within China it is a Class II national-protected species, meaning it cannot be eaten (Fen-Qi, et. al. 2007). It is also listed in China's Red Data Book as threat category E-endangered. Vietnam does not list the White-eared Night Heron as a protected species (Pilgrim et. al. 2009).

BirdLife International Vietnam Programme in collaboration with Vietnam Birdwatching Club and the National Natural Museum initiated a program in April 2008 to increase local understanding and promote conservation of the White-eared Night Heron. The two component project, titled "Assessing the status and distribution of the Endangered White-Eared Night Heron in Vietnam" was aimed at raising awareness on the importance of White-eared Night Heron conservation and conducting field surveys to check the status of this species at potential sites. Posters were designed and distributed in the potential range of the White-eared Night Heron to promote the identification of the species and increase conservation by local authorities. During the field survey, White-eared Night Heron were recorded in Ban O, Xuan Lac, Coc Toc and Ba Be. Raising awareness of the White-eared Night Heron in the Ba Be/Xuan Lac area is hoped to encourage provincial and local authorities to make this area a conservation site for the species and initiate a species action plan for the White-eared Night Heron (Walsh 2008).

Further study on the White-eared Night Heron’s ecological requirements and annual movement patterns are required to formulate better conservation tactics and strategies. There is currently no knowledge of whether White-eared Night Herons use different habitats outside of the breeding season or when, if ever, they migrate. Strong conservation efforts have been shown by Guangxi Forestry Department and county governments, resulting in the establishment of Fusui White-eared Night Heron Reserve and the Shangsi White-eared Night Heron Reserve in southern Guangxi. The Chebaling National Nature Reserve and the Guangdong Forestry Department reportedly intend to increase White-eared Night Heron conservation efforts. A survival plan for the White-eared Night Heron species with a combination of community development, education, habitat management and law enforcement must be implemented (Fellowes et. al. 2001).

The Thousand Island Lakes region in China has recently been shown to support the largest population of White-eared Night Herons, and thus should be made a major target for species conservation strategies. There is a need for the designation of a protected core area for nesting islands during the White-eared Night Heron breeding season. Control of fishing, tourism and logging on nesting islands needs to be implemented. Monitoring is needed to further elucidate the size of the population of White-eared Night Herons in the Thousand Island Lakes region, as well as the species habitat preferences and foraging behaviors (Li 2007).

White-eared Night Heron are reported to occur in the Cao Bang, Lang Son, and Hoa Binh provinces of Northern Vietnam, though little is understood of their current distribution in these areas. Surveys need to be conducted in these areas, as well as the neighboring Tuyen Quang Province to assess the size of the White-eared Night Heron population and its current geographic extent. A movement for nest protection schemes in northern Vietnam has occured in the last 5 years following the nest protection schemes implemented for water birds in Cambodia. These nest protection schemes involve rewarding local people for finding and protecting nests of rare species during their breeding seasons, which would promote awareness of the species in local communities as well as meet conservation needs in a cost-effective manner. The Vietnam government also has been encouraged to add White-eared Night Herons to the strictly protected species list (Pilgrim 2009).

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Population

Population
The global population is estimated at c.250-999 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2001; M. Crosby in litt. 2005). Although recent records confirm the species occurs in a wider range than previously thought, the aforementioned population estimate is still seen as appropriate (J. Kushlan in litt. 2009). Brazil (2009) has estimated the population in China at fewer than 100 breeding pairs. The total estimate equates to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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The population trend of White-eared Night Herons has been determined to be unstable and decreasing on a global scale.

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Threats

Major Threats
A key threat is forest clearance and fragmentation, primarily as a result of demands for timber and agricultural land in an extremely densely populated region. Although the species can nest in human modified habitats, vulnerability of monocultures to pest invasion is a risk (Fellowes et al. 2001). Human disturbance may cause this secretive bird to abandon eggs while incubating (Li et al. 2007). Hunting is a major additional threat, even inside protected areas, and it may be particularly vulnerable when nesting. The decline or disappearance of the birds in Hubei and parts of Guangxi and Guangdong has been attributed to habitat damage and direct hunting (He Fenqi et al. 2007a). In Guangxi, the number of birds seen in markets outnumbers records in the wild. In recent years, a relatively high number of specimens have been collected, including those to supply scientific purposes, notably at Chebaling and Shennongjia (He Fenqi et al. 2007a). This, like capture for food, is illegal in China. Direct habitat damage for dam construction, river regulation and road building has driven birds from known sites, but counter-intuitively these activities also create new habitats in some cases. It appears that most areas of suitable habitat in Vietnam are subject to pressure from deforestation and hunting (Eames and Le Manh Hung 2009, Pilgrim et al. 2009, Walsh 2010), with overfishing and the intensive use of agricultural chemicals also being widespread (Pilgrim et al. 2009). The impact of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is unknown. Other threats affecting Ba Be National Park, Vietnam, include firewood collection, harvesting of non-timber forest products, occupation of agricultural land within the park, cattle-grazing, water pollution and sedimentation (Eames and Le Manh Hung 2009, Walsh 2010).

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Hunting has become a major threat to White Eared Night Heron. Hunters have been using a combination of shooting and trapping White-eared Night Heron with baited nooses at their nest sites or feeding sites. White-eared Night Herons are the most vulnerable to human activity during the nesting season. Human activities are suspected to interrupt the White-eared Night Heron egg incubation process, and breeding failure often leads to roosting sites being abandoned (Li 2007). In both China and Vietnam, hunting of the bird has continued to increase as hunters have become apt to sell White-eared Night Heron eggs for food and skins for plumage in local markets (Pilgrim 2009).

Deforestation has also been identified as a major threat to the White-eared Night Heron, primarily as a result of demands for timber and agricultural land in densely populated regions of China and Vietnam (BirdLife Species Champion 2011). The decreased amount of forest remaining in southern China known to be habitat to White-eared Night Herons is still threatened by clearing. The degraded habitats (primarily in Guangxi) are primarily a monoculture of pine, which is highly susceptible to pathogenic colonization by the pinewood nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. The rapid spread of the pinewood nematode west towards Guangxi from eastern Guangdong continues to add additional pressure to environmental stresses and deforestation of White-eared Night Heron habitat (Fellowes et. al. 2001).

Other threats to White-eared Night Heron include the increasing levels of pesticide and fertilizer used in Chinese agriculture. These chemicals could directly affect the birds' health during foraging as well as indirectly affect the birds by decreasing the population sizes of insects that they consume (Pilgrim 2009). Chemical run off into streams, rivers and marshes could also be affecting fish that White-eared Night Heron feed on.

White-eared Night Herons have recently been collected inside the nature reserves of Chebaling and Shennongjia to supply scientific studies, regardless of governmental prohibition. This puts additional pressure on an already declining population of endangered numbers (BirdLife International 2012). In recent years, increased human activity and deforestation in Longhu Shan Nature Reserve in Guangxi as a result of gold digging has caused severe damage to White-eared Night Heron feeding habitat and may possibly lead to its abandonment of nesting sites (BirdLife International 2012).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
It is a Class II nationally protected species in China. It has been recorded in or near several protected areas in China, including Shennongjia Nature Reserve (Hubei), Tianmu Shan National Nature Reserve (Zhejiang), Dayao Shan Nature Reserve and Daming Shan Nature Reserve (Guangxi), Chebaling National Nature Reserve (Guangdong), Jianfengling Nature Reserve and Wuzhishan Nature Reserve (Hainan), and Jiulianshan Nature Reserve (Jiangxi) (Tang Pei-Rong and Liao Cheng-Kai 2003). In Vietnam, it has been recorded in Ba Be National Park and Na Hang Nature Reserve (Nguyen Cu 2008, Eames and Le Manh Hung 2009, Pilgrim et al. 2009, J. Pilgrim in litt. 2009, Walsh 2010). Special nature reserves have been created for the species in Fusui and Shangsi, southern Guangxi(Fellowes et al. 2001), of which the former was later merged administratively with the Fusui Precious Animal Reserve protecting the white-headed leaf monkey Trachypitheus poliocephalus. Fieldwork in northern Vietnam in 2008 appears to have raised awareness amongst local people, such that they are now starting to officially report nests (Walsh 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue surveys in south-east China, and extend them to Hainan and Hoa Binh province, Vietnam, and conduct searches in the hill-districts of Fokien (Fujian), Chekiang (Zhejiang), and Anhwei (Anhui) (He Fenqi et al. 2007a), with the aim of locating and censusing populations and determining whether additional sites require protection. Study the species's ecology at a known breeding site (preferably also a historical site where long-term presence can be confirmed) in order to estimate population connectivity and the species's likely range (He Fenqi et al. 2007b). Implement conservation actions for its only known breeding site in Zhejiang. Extend, link, and manage (particularly to control encroachment, logging, tourism and stream damage), protected areas where it occurs. Instigate public-awareness programmes to stop hunting and habitat destruction. Carry out surveys in Bac Kan province and Tuyen Quang province, Vietnam, to assess the size of the population (Pilgrim et al. 2009). Encourage nest protection schemes (Pilgrim et al. 2009). Campaign for the Government of Vietnam to add the species to the list of those that are strictly protected (Pilgrim et al. 2009).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Sold in markets as meat and as eggs in Vietnam and China; sometimes sold for rehabilitation purposes (Fellowes et al, 2001). Specimens of Gorsachius magnificus have been collected by a museums (Fen-Qi, 2007).

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Wikipedia

White-eared Night Heron

The white-eared night heron (Gorsachius magnificus) is a species of heron in the Ardeidae family. It is found in China and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and rivers. It is threatened by habitat loss.

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