|Adult female in Spain|
The little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) is a wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, native to the Old World, breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, western and southern Asia, and Madagascar. Birds from temperate regions in Europe and western Asia are migratory, wintering in Africa and further south in Asia, while those nesting in the tropics are sedentary. It is rare north of its breeding range.
It is a very small bittern; measuring 25–36 cm (9.8–14.2 in) in length, 40–58 cm (16–23 in) across the wings and weighing 59–150 g (2.1–5.3 oz). It is among the smallest herons on earth. It has a short neck, longish bill and buff underparts. The male's back and crown are black, and the wings are black with a large white patch on each wing. The female has a browner back and a buff-brown wing patch.
There are three 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
The little bittern is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The little bittern's breeding habitat is reed beds. It nests on platforms of reeds in shrubs, and four to eight eggs are laid. It can be difficult to see, given its skulking lifestyle and reed bed habitat.
An adult during ringing in northern Italy
- BirdLife International (2012). "Ixobrychus minutus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Rasmussen, Pamela C. and John C. Anderton (2005) Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide
- Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.
- Handbook of the Birds of the World 1: 425-426. Lynx Edicions.
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