Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus payesii)

Little Bitterns are medium-sized, 15" (38cm) birds and members of the Heron family. The diagnostic feature of this bird is seen in flight, when the pale buff-coloured coverts on the upper forewing contrast with the dark flight feathers. They have a deep green-black crown and upperparts. The underparts, face and neck are a pale buff colour. Bright yellow eyes and the feet and bill are yellow-green. The female is more brown above and is streaked below (the male is more striped). The immature is very mottled above.
Ixobrychus minutus payesii are residents of Kenya, while Ixobrychus minutus minutus are Paleartic migrants, sometimes seen in Kenya between October - May.

Little Bitterns are extremely shy birds that use the pattern of their plumage to blend into the background. When they are alarmed, remain motionless, with their necks stretched and bills stuck snootily into the air. When flushed, they fly fast with dangling feet.
They nest on a rough platform of reeds and 4 - 8 eggs are laid, usually during or just after the rainy season. Both parents incubate the eggs, with hatching occurring between 2 - 3 weeks. The young climb in and out of the nest for the first three weeks and fledge after that time.

Little Bitterns eat small fish, insects and amphibians, particularly frogs. They also take small reptiles and birds plus their eggs.

Little Bitterns are seen around Kenya's Lake Turkana, Naivasha, Baringo, along coastal areas and in the west to Nairobi area. They habit waterways with papyrus, reeds and other tall, dense vegetation.

Extra Little Bittern Facts
Little Bitterns are named after a combination of ancient Greek and Latin:
Ixias is a "reed-like plant" - and - brukhomai "to bellow". It can be a very noisy bird. In flight, it calls "kwer ~ kwar". When breeding "gak~gak~gak" and a back-of-the-throat "grrrr". These calls are used to establish a breeding territory.
Minutus is Latin for "small".

Photographed at Kenya's Nairobi National Park.

Categories & Keywords
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:bird, bittern, heron, kenya, little bittern, wildlife

Little Bittern ~ Big Feet

Little Bittern walking across reeds, showing the need for such large feet.

Little Bittern ~ Striped Chest

Little Bittern showing its chest while looking for food amongst reeds.