Little Bittern

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Image:Littlebittern.jpg

Common Name: Little Bittern Scientific Name: Lxobrychus minutus

Size: 10 ½ - 14 inches (27-36 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia; the species is most common in freshwater marshes with beds of bulrushes, reeds or other dense aquatic vegetation, preferably also with deciduous bushes and trees such as willow or alder. It may also occupy the margins of lakes, pools and reservoirs, wooded and marshy banks of streams and rivers, desert oases, peat bogs, wooded swamps, wet grasslands, rice-fields, rank vegetation around sewage ponds, and in places mangroves, the margins of saline lagoons and salt marshes.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 76,000-610,000. The species is threatened by habitat degradation and loss through direct destruction, pollution and hydrological changes (e.g. in rivers). The species also suffers mortality as a result of drought and desertification on African staging and wintering grounds (degrades wetland habitats needed by the species). In Victoria (Australia) the Little Bittern is listed as “Endangered”. Protected by the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Diet: Varies with region and season but it is essentially insectivorous and takes aquatic adult and larval insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and beetles. Other food items include spiders, mollusks, crustaceans (e.g. shrimp and crayfish), fish, frogs, tadpoles, small reptiles and small birds.

Nesting: The nest is constructed from reeds and twigs and is normally placed near open pools in thick emergent vegetation (such as beds of bulrushes or reeds close to the surface of the water or up to 60 cm above it. Alternatively nests may be placed in low bushes or trees (e.g. alder or willow) up to 2 m above water. Preferred nesting sites are usually 5-15 m out from the shore in water 20-30 cm deep. The species usually nests singly but may nest in loose colonies in favorable habitats with neighboring nests as close as 5 m apart (solitary nests are usually 30-100 m apart). Nests are often reused in consecutive years

Cool Facts: There are four subspecies:

  • Ixobrychus minutus minutus (Linnaeus, 1766). Europe, Asia, northern Africa; winters in sub-saharan Africa and southern Asia.
  • Ixobrychus minutus payesii (Hartlaub, 1858). Sub-saharan Africa, resident.
  • Ixobrychus minutus podiceps (Bonaparte, 1855). Madagascar, resident.
  • Ixobrychus minutus dubius (Matthews, 1912). Australia, New Guinea, resident.

Found in Songbird Remix Shorebirds Volume II: Herons and Bitterns

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