The Striated Heron

This bird is a rare visitor from South America, with only six prior recorded sightings in the last forty years.

Posted August 3, 2019

In recent weeks, I have been thrilled to repeatedly observe a rare South American visitor to Bonaire–the Striated Heron.

At first glance, this small heron might be confused with the common similar species, the Green Heron,  but if one takes the time to look closely, there are obvious differences in both outward appearance and behavior.

Distinctive differences in outward appearance.

The white and rufous (reddish) stripes on the front of the neck are the biggest clue to your identifying a Striated Heron.  Another difference is that the side of the neck is more gray than rufous.  Like the Green Heron, the Striated Heron is normally solitary, found standing quietly around wetland habitats, such as Pekelmeer on the Southern Tour.

The Striated Heron

The Striated Heron

The Green Heron

The Green Heron

Behavioral differences between the Striated Heron and the Green Heron.

During the hours I spent with this special bird, I noticed several behavioral differences as well.  First, I always find the Green Heron to be easily “spooked.”  Simply stopping a vehicle might be enough for the Green Heron to fly away.

I was surprised to find the Striated Heron had no interest in me at all.  Although I used the vehicle as a blind, I was able to move forward or backward to follow along its path, and the bird didn’t even seem to take notice.

Another behavior which I found to be extremely interesting was that of how the bird fished.  Herons, of course, consume fish as a mainstay of their diet,  and I have always seen a fish being manipulated so that it could be eaten head first.  Otherwise, the fish’s dorsal fins could catch in the throat (see the image of a Green Heron consuming a fish head-first).

However, this Striated Heron has the unusual behavior of catching a fish, shaking it violently (reminding me of a dog with a favorite plush toy), and then swallowing it sideways.  I could watch the fish on its travels down the entire elongated throat!

A Green Heron eating its catch head-first.

Historically recorded sightings of the Striated Heron.

According to eBird, this bird has been only observed a handful of times in the past 40 years, prior to my four sightings in the past month.  However, it should be noted that there most likely have been additional occurrences.  It’s possible that observers misidentified this bird as a Green Heron, or, if it was properly identified, the sighting might not have been officially recorded.


About the author

Susan has been living on Bonaire for over 30 years. She is a certified bird guide, a PADI SCUBA Diving Master Instructor,  and an underwater and topside photographer.

Susan is a certified bird guide, living on Bonaire, in the Dutch Caribbean.

Reach out to Susan

Contact Susan via email, Facebook Messenger, give Susan a call, or simply use the online form below.

If you have any questions in regard to your birding tour on Bonaire, feel free to contact Susan to get answers.  She is always happy to elaborate on routes or best times for a tour based upon your own personal preferences.  Tours can be tailored to your own interests, whether that be birds, photography, or both!

It is also recommended that you do some homework about Bonaire's birds before you visit.  By knowing a little bit about the birds which might be encountered on tour, your enjoyment will be heightened!  Be sure to check out these resources for Bonaire Birding. Reading the Bonaire Bird Blog will also accustom you to the birds that habitually are encountered on Bonaire.

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