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Capped Heron Pilherodius pileatus

  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: F. E. Buderman


  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Capped Heron
eBird range map for Capped Heron

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas

Native range: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela (BirdLife International 2009).

Capped Herons are exclusively neotropical, predominantly Amazonian, extending into northern and south-central South America.  Found in the lowlands up to 900 m (Parker et al. 1996) from central Panama south to northern Bolivia, northern Paraguay, and southeastern Brazil (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989).  In Panama, rare to uncommon on Pacific slope from central province of Panama (Tocumen area) east to  Darien (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). Now mainly found in Darien (Wetmore 1965), where it may be seasonal (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Also on the Caribbean slope of Panama in the upper Chagres River valley (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). In Venezuela, found from llanos (a tropical plain to the east of the Andes) up to 500 m (Hilty 2003). Uncommon in Ecuador and only found below 400 m (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001).

The Capped Heron is believed to be resident throughout its range. There may be seasonal movement in Darien, Panama. It seems to be absent for several months, but this may reflect a shift in feeding grounds rather than a migration (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, Kushlan and Hancock 2005).

The elevational distribution of the Capped Heron is from sea level up to 900 m (Parker et al. 1996).

Distribution outside the Americas

Endemic to the Americas.


Utilizes ditches and both the wet and dry grassland of savannas, but they may venture into deeper ponds and streams.  They feed along the shoreline or in floating vegetation.  Capped Herons, as opposed to Whistling Herons (Syrigma sibilatrix), appear to be more reliant on water, making use of both shallow edge habitat and deeper water in the flooded savanna.  Prefer to forage in unvegetated patches rather than in vegetation itself (Kushlan et al. 1982). Habitat use limited to aquatic water and vegetation, with no use of terrestrial vegetation (Kushlan et al. 1985).  They have also been observed in trenches of coffee plantations and flooded rice fields (Haverschmidt 1958).
Capped Heron; Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil; December 2006 © Arthur Grosset

Historical changes

Starting to appear at pools alongside Transamazon Highway, which is a new colonization (Sick 1993).

Fossil history

No information.

Recommended Citation

Buderman, F. E. (2010). Capped Heron (Pilherodius pileatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.