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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2020

 
 
     
   
   

 

   
   
 
Bitterns
   
   

Fig 1 : Yellow Bittern


Fig 2 : Cinnamon Bittern - female


Fig 3 : Cinnamon Bittern - male




 

Bitterns comprise the subfamily Botaurinae, part of the heron family Ardeidae.

These are small to medium-sized birds, which can be distinguished from other heron or egret-like birds by their necks, which are much shorter and thicker than other members of the group. In flight bitterns keep their necks retracted, in the same manner as other herons and egrets.

Bitterns are typically patterned with a streaked chest and mottled wings of various shades of brown or black. Unlike herons and egrets, which quickly take flight when disturbed, bitterns often remain still, preferring to rely on not being seen.

They are secretive in habits, remaining largely concealed amongst reedbeds, flooded grasslands and the margins of freshwater ponds, lakes and rice paddies. They may also occur at the edge of mangrove forests, but mainly prefer freshwater habitats.

They are stealth feeders, waiting patiently or advancing slowly towards their prey which  includes a variety of fishes, amphibians, aquatic reptiles and insects.

Globally 14 species of bittern are recognised, of which 5 occur in Southeast Asia.


Fig 1 :
Yellow Bittern
Ixobrychus sinensis
Location :
Lorong Halus, Singapore
Habitat : Reed margins of freshwater lake

Fig 2 :
Cinnamon Bittern (female)
Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
Location :
Labrador, Singapore
Habitat : Freshwater pond / flooded grassland

Fig 3 :
Cinnamon Bittern (male)
Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
Location :
Neo Tiew, Singapore
Habitat : Muddy, freshwater stream