Little bittern

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Little bittern
Ixobrychus minutus -Barcelona, Spain-8.jpg
Adult female in Spain
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Ixobrychus
Species: I. minutus
Binomial name
Ixobrychus minutus
(Linnaeus, 1766)

Common little bittern

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.[2]


Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

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 heron species. 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:

  • I. m. minutus(Linnaeus, 1766): nominate, found in Europe, Asia, northern Africa; winters in Sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia
  • I. m. payesii(Hartlaub, 1858): found in Sub-Saharan Africa, resident
  • I. m. podiceps(Bonaparte, 1855): found in Madagascar, resident

The Australian little bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) and the extinct New Zealand little bittern (Ixobrychus novaezelandiae) were formerly considered subspecies of the little bittern.[3]


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.

These bitterns feed on fish, insects and amphibians.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2014). "Ixobrychus minutus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Anderton, John C. (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. ISBN 84-87334-67-9. 
  3. ^ Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6. 

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