Little Bittern/Ixobrychus minutus - Male + Female

Little Bittern/Ixobrychus minutus - Photographer: Qenan Maxhuni
Little Bittern/Ixobrychus minutus - Photographer: Qenan Maxhuni
Little Bittern/Ixobrychus minutus - Photographer: Dimitar Dimitrov
Little Bittern/Ixobrychus minutus - Photographer: Иван Пандъков

The Little Bittern  is a wading bird  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 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 Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) and the extinct New Zealand Little Bittern (Ixobrychus novaezelandiae) were formerly considered subspecies of the Little Bittern.


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 reedbeds. It nests on platforms of reeds in shrubs, and 4-8 eggs are laid. It can be difficult to see, given its skulking lifestyle and reedbed habitat.

These bitterns feed on fish, insects and amphibians.


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