More research is desperately needed on White-bellied Heron to more accurately estimate population size and understand population interactions, as well as to better understand the species biology, behaviour, ecological requirements and threats. The map shows which sites have been surveyed since the year 2000.
Current, research projects underway, include:
Annual surveys are conducted to estimate population size, area of occurrence and breeding, as well as to observe behaviour, habitat use and threats. Research on genetic relatedness of the existing population is also underway.
During the December 2015 workshop held in Bhutan, it was determined necessary to prioritise improving our collective understanding of White-bellied heron dispersal from the nest, as well as habitat use and mortality. In order to do so, identification and tracking of individuals is necessary. As such, in 2016, Lubomir Peske, an expert in satellite transmission and tracking of birds from the Czech Republic, went to Bhutan to assist RSPN with fitting satellite transmitters and leg bands of young heron. RSPN and Lubomir were able to successfully fit transmitters and leg bands to two pre-fledging White-bellied Heron.
Studies to identify new species in China are on-going, with White-bellied Heron flagged.
Studies have been undertaken in partnership with Atree, Natures Foster and UFCN (a consortium of local forest protection NGOs in Assam) in Manas Tiger Reserve, Assam, but no White-bellied Heron were positively identified, although community members reported sightings.
Surveys of White-bellied Heron in Western Arunachal Pradesh were conducted by the Research Officer of Namdapha National Park in April, August and November of 2015. These included presence/absence surveys based on previous recorded sightings but no positive recordings were made. In addition local communities were given flyers to encourage reports of any sightings.
A PhD student is currently undertaking research on foraging ecology of White-bellied Heron, focusing on foraging techniques and food preferences, in Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh.
WCS continues to work on protecting important sites for WBH and hopes to be able to do more research on the species soon.