Yellow Bittern

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Common Name: Yellow Bittern
Scientific Name: Ixobrychus sinensis

Size: 15 inches (38 cm)

Habitat: Asia; breeding in tropical Asia from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka east to Japan and Indonesia.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 100,000 - 1,000,000. Yellow Bitterns are still common and currently not endangered. But they are affected by habitat destruction and overuse of pesticides which poison their prey and them. Ironically, Bitterns may actually help control insect pests on rice fields and should be encouraged.

Diet: Small fish, frogs and invertebrates. They usually hunt from cover but may also forage over floating vegetation, such as water-hyacinth beds. They are more active at dawn and dusk.

Nesting: The male is uniformly dull yellow above and buff below. The head and neck are chestnut, with a black crown. The female's crown, neck and breast are streaked brown, and the juvenile is like the female but heavily streaked brown below, and mottled with buff above.

Yellow Bitterns prefer to nest in dense vegetation near water. They make a small neat nest, generally a thick pad of sticks, reeds, grass. Nests are 10cm-3m above the water line, sometimes roofed by surrounding vegetation. 3-5, average 4, pale blue-green eggs are laid. Both parents share incubation duties. The chicks have pale peach-pink down and can climb before they can fly. The chicks stay away from the nest from about day 15.

Cool Facts: Yellow Bitterns are one of the smallest of the bitterns. They can be difficult to see, given their skulking lifestyle and reed bed habitat, but tend to fly fairly frequently, when the striking contrast between the black flight feathers and the other wise yellowish plumage makes them unmistakable.

When alarmed, it points its bill skyward and aligns its body contours, and thus the stripes on its breast with the surrounding vertical wetland grasses. This is commonly known as the “bittern-stance” that the bird can maintain for hours.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume II: Herons and Bitterns

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