Three White Bellied Herons - Sangay, Choe and Gedun Tagged To Study Their Movements And Lifestyle


According to officials, the birds did not exhibit any discomforting behaviour after being tagged with the devices.

(Source: Kuensel)


By Tshering Palden Kuensel

On the morning of May 14, three white bellied herons - Sangay, Choe, and Gedun were tagged with Global Positioning System (GPS) at the Kisonachu, Wangdue along the Wangdue-Tsirang highway.

The purpose is to monitor and study the movement patterns and lifestyle of these critically endangered birds.

According to officials, the birds did not exhibit any discomforting behaviour after being tagged with the devices.

A team remained to continue monitoring the birds for some hours. “The parents and juveniles didn’t show any abnormal family behaviour,” an official said.


Photo: The Mileage Org


An ecologist with the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Rebecca Pradhan said that this is an important exercise in the conservation efforts for these hermit-like folks. 

The three juvenile herons are named after the Triple Gems (also known as Konchosum (དཀོན་མཆོག་གསུམ་) which refers to the Buddha, Dharma - his teachings and sangha - his followers).

The trio were about 40-45 days old when researchers from the RSPN and the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment Research (UWICER) fixed the tracking devices on them.

Sherub (PhD) from the UWICER led the GPS tagging exercise and the tagging materials were supported by the Maxplanck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO), Germany.  

Rebecca Pradhan said that the study would help them learn about the survival of these endangered juveniles.

The RSPN first tagged two juvenile birds in 2016 at Burichhu, with the help of an expert - Peske (PhD), a freelance ecological consultant from the Czech Republic. They were tagged in the process of rescuing the juveniles.

Where are white bellied herons found?

According to its records, there are between 50 and 249 white bellied herons in the world. The heron had already become extinct in Nepal but they can still be found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Myanmar.

Global distribution range of white bellied herons.

 Map: Bird Life International


Bhutan has 25 adult white bellied herons, the most in the entire world. This is according to the latest survey this year conducted across 30 known and potential habitats of the elusive birds within the districts of Punakha, Wangdue, Tsirang, Dagana, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Mongar and Pemagatshel.

A team from RSPN and forestry officials spotted the nest on March 2, during the annual white bellied heron population survey 2019.

The first egg was found on March 4 and in the next five days, there were three more eggs. The nest is located in the middle of the riparian broad-leaved forest which is located 50-60m from the river.

Habitats of the white bellied herons

The birds are found along rivers (usually with sand or gravel bars) often within or adjacent to subtropical/tropical broadleaved forest, from the lowlands up to at least 1,500 metres. They usually live near marshes or lakes near wet grasslands.

Photo: Species on the Brink


These creatures are generally solitary but they have also been seen to aggregate into small flocks and family groups during winter.

These rare species also tend to frequent inaccessible and undisturbed areas and are known to breed and roost in Chir pine forest.

Four nests found in Bhutan from 2003-2007 were solitary and located in large Chir pine forests on ridges or steep slopes at altitudes of 500 -1,500m, near the confluence of a small forest stream with a larger river.

Nesting normally takes place between March till early June where the birds travel up to 30km to feed on sand bars in large braided river systems during winter.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised the bird as critically endangered as its population has been decreasing annually.


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


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