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4 years of study of the Agami heron (Agamia agami): Argos tracking, Conservation Plan and a new Working Group

The Agami heron is ranked 13th among the world's conservation priority heron species, and 2nd for the Americas. Just 3 years ago, nothing was known about the feeding grounds of this species during the breeding season, or about areas used during the nonbreeding season. In French Guiana, which holds the world's largest Agami heron colony (representing over 95% of the known population), the location and characterization of these habitats as well as the identification of the geographic location and routes travelled by breeding and non-breeding individuals was crucial in order to evaluate the threats on the species and develop an effective conservation action plan both in French Guiana and throughout its distribution in South and Central America. To achieve this objective, GEPOG (Group for the Study and Protection of Birds in French Guiana) tracked 8 agami herons from 2012 to 2013 via the European LIFE+ Cap DOM program.

The Agami heron is one of the most cryptic and unknown heron species of the Americas, and very scarce throughout its distribution in North-Eastern South America and Southern part of Central America. It has been uplisted to "Vulnerable" by the IUCN Red List because it is suspected to lose 19-26% of suitable habitat within its distribution over the next three generations. But it is also one of the French Guiana flagship bird species thanks to the colony of over 2000 couples found in the Natural Reserve of the Kaw marshes.

Objectives: 1) enhance the understanding of the ecology and behaviour of this species through Argos Tracking, and 2) use these results to write the first conservation plan.

Agami Heron colony in the Kaw Marshes, French GuianaAgami heron Agamia agami colony in the Kaw Marshes, French Guiana

Agami Heron in the Kaw Marshes, French Guiana
Agami heron Agamia agami in the Kaw Marshes, French Guiana (V. Rufray/GEPOG)

Results during the breeding season
The home ranges in the Kaw-Roura marshes were analyzed for 3 male herons: Eliot and Kanapaich (before migration) and Markaw (who never migrated) with a mean of 148km² at 95% and 24km² at 50%.
The global home range for all herons is of 360km² at 95% and 82km² at 50%, covering marshes, mangroves and swamp forests.

Results during the non-breeding season
Data from 4 individuals show that this species can migrate in different directions along the coast (Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela) and is able to cover up to 1300 km within two months, including a significant stop-over. However, not all birds migrate (one stayed in the area of the marshes around the colony).
The study shows that the Kaw-Roura marsh colony receives individuals from the whole Atlantic coast of the species' distribution area. This confirms the importance of keeping the place protected and of regular monitoring of the colony.

Agami Heron with its argos tracker on the backAgami heron Agamia agami with its argos tracker on the back (V. Rufray/GEPOG)

Kanapaich release in 2013
Kanapaich release in 2013 (V. Rufray/GEPOG)

Solar argos ptt on Agaminas back
Solar argos ptt on Agaminas back (V. Rufray/GEPOG)

The Conservation Plan
The study showed that agami herons migrate long distances; therefore appeared the need of international cooperation at the continent level for conservation efforts. A conservation plan has thus been co-written with different partners, natural reserves, ornithologists and organizations from French Guiana, Brazil, Peru, Suriname, Costa Rica, Paraguay, USA, France and The Netherlands.
During this writing process, it has been decided to create a specific working group for the species under HeronConservation, the specialist group for herons from IUCN. This working group is currently fixing its strategic statement and future actions.

Agami heron conservation plan cover

Further Reading

Contacts of the project coordinators:
Anna Stier ( and
Nyls de Pracontal (
GEPOG Association
15, Avenue Pasteur
97300 Cayenne
French Guiana

Contacts of Natural Reserves which have Agami heron sightings or breeding colonies in their areas and are members of the Agami Heron Working Group:

Anna Stier



Door: Remco Hofland, dinsdag 10 november 2015 12:18
Wow, great pictures & information! Who is the author of the article? And is it possible to visit (the vicinity of) the colony in French Guiana? 2,000 breeding pairs, that must be a spectacular sight!
Door: Max Berlijn, dinsdag 10 november 2015 13:23
Als er een soort is om dat Holarctische listen aan de wilgen te hangen....wat een beest, ik heb altijd gedacht dat het solitaire beesten waren.
Door: Jan Hein van Steenis, dinsdag 10 november 2015 15:53
Ik ben ook zeer verrast door de koloniegrootte. Hij is ook nog eens nóg mooier dan ik verwacht had. Helaas is dit typisch zo'n soort die mijn gebruikelijke reisgenoten in Z-Am "al hebben", maar binnenkort weer een kans in Guyana...

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