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The White-bellied Heron Working Group is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Heron Specialist Group. To find out more about the Working Group visit the About Us page.

White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis)

Bing Wang

Photo: Bing Wang

The White-bellied Heron is the world’s most imperilled heron. It is classified as Critically Endangered due to its small and rapidly declining population, and is regarded as one of the world’s most threatened bird species – with only 60 confirmed individuals throughout its range.

The White-bellied Heron is known to occur in just three of its former range states – India, Bhutan and Myanmar. It is extinct in Nepal, and is believed to be regionally extinct in Bangladesh. A captive specimen identified in Yunnan province, China in 2014, suggests – however – that the species could still exist there.

Numbers are worryingly low in all its remaining range states and it is not known if these populations are viable in isolation. Numbers are likely to decline further as more habitats are lost and degraded as a result of increased human activity, including large-scale infrastructure development. Current published estimates suggest there are just 50-249 mature birds left in the wild. However, a full and thorough population census is lacking, as is research about the bird’s ecology and biology – both of which must be better understood to preserve the species effectively.

Photo: Lubomir Peske