Common little bittern

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The common little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) is a small wading bird belonging to the family Ardeidae. The common little bittern species is distributed in Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Madagascar and Europe.

Taxonomy of Common little bittern

  • Scientific Name: Ixobrychus minutus
  • Common Name: Common little bittern
  • French: Blongios nain; German: Zwergdommel; Spanish: Avetorillo comĂșn;
  • Other names: Ardea minuta Linnaeus, 1766; little bittern;
  • Family: Ardeidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1766)
Ixobrychus minutus species was previously included in the genus Ardea. The common little bittern species are considered closely related to I. exilis, I. sinensis and I. dubius. The three recognized subspecies are: I. m. minutus (Linnaeus, 1766), I. m. payesii (Hartlaub, 1858) and I. m. podiceps (Bonaparte, 1855).

Indian birds - Little bittern - Ixobrychus minutus
Indian birds - Common little bittern (immature) - Ixobrychus minutus


The common little bittern is a small bird, measuring 25 to 40 cm in length and weighing 60 to 150 grams. The wingspan is 40 to 60 cm. These bittern species have a short neck and long bill. The back and crown of male bittern are blackish and the underparts are buff. The wings are blackish with a large white patch.


The common little bittern species inhabit a variety of habitats. They occur in freshwater marshes, pools, ponds and lakes surrounded by thick vegetation, desert oases, wooded river margins, flooded grasslands and agricultural fields.

Feeding habits

The common little bittern species feed on insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders and beetles. They also feed on molluscs, crustaceans, fish, frogs, tadpoles, small reptiles and birds.


The breeding season of these bittern species is from May to July. The nest is constructed on the emergent vegetation with the help of reeds and twigs. Sometimes the nest is found on bushes and low trees.


The subspecies I. m. minutus is distributed in Central and South Europe, North Africa, Siberia, Iran, Pakistan and Northwest India. These subspecies winter in Africa. The subspecies I. m. payesii occurs in Africa ( south of Sahara). The subspecies I. m. podiceps occurs in Madagascar.

Movement Patterns

The common little bittern of the nominate subspecies are migratory and move southwards for wintering. The tropical populations in Africa and Madagascar are resident and make local movements for feeding grounds.

Status and conservation

The global population of these bittern species is yet to be estimated after the recent taxonomic split. They have extremely large range of distribution and large population. These bittern species are least vulnerable. Habitat loss and increasing human activity in the breeding grounds are the potential threat to conservation and management of these species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these bittern species species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Ixobrychus sinensis
Species:I. minutus
Binomial name:Ixobrychus minutus
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Asia, Africa and Europe;
Feeding habits:insects and other invertebrates, frogs and fish;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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