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Common Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Ixobrychus minutus and I. dubius (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as I. minutus following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

Population justification
The global population size has not been estimated owing to recent taxonomic splits.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour Palearctic populations of this species undergo extensive post-breeding dispersal movements in all directions and are also fully migratory, travelling southward on a broad front (del Hoyo et al. 1992) between August and October and returning to the north from March to April (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Other populations (e.g. in the tropics) are resident but may make partial migratory movements connected with fluctuations in water-level (del Hoyo et al. 1992). In the western Palearctic and India the species breeds mainly between May and July, breeding from June to February in South Africa, or in relation to the rains in tropical Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It breeds singly or occasionally in small loose groups in favourable areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. 2-3 nests were spaced 50 m apart at the same pond, Africa) (Brown et al. 1982). When not breeding the species may be found singly, in pairs (Africa) (Brown et al. 1982), in small flocks of 5-15 individuals (Snow and Perrins 1998) (e.g. on migration) (del Hoyo et al. 1992), or roosting in groups of 30 individuals (Africa) (Brown et al. 1982). In most areas it is mainly a crepuscular feeder (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005) although it may be diurnal in some regions (e.g. South Africa) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Habitat The species is most common in freshwater marshes with beds of bulrushes Typha spp., reeds Phragmites spp. (Hockey et al. 2005) or other dense aquatic vegetation, preferably also with deciduous bushes and trees (del Hoyo et al. 1992) such as willow Salix spp. or alder Alnus spp. (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). It may also occupy the margins of lakes, pools and reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), wooded and marshy banks of streams and rivers (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), desert oases, peat bogs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), wooded swamps, wet grasslands, rice-fields (del Hoyo et al. 1992), rank vegetation around sewage ponds (Hockey et al. 2005), and in places mangroves, the margins of saline lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and saltmarshes (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Diet Its diet varies with region and season (del Hoyo et al. 1992) but it is essentially insectivorous and takes aquatic adult and larval insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and beetles (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Other food items include spiders, molluscs, crustaceans (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. shrimp and crayfish) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005), fish, frogs, tadpoles, small reptiles and birds (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is constructed from reeds and twigs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and is normally placed near open poolsin thick emergent vegetation (Kushlan and Hancock 2005) (such as beds of bulrushes Typha spp. or reeds Phragmites spp.) (Hockey et al. 2005) close to the surface of the water or up to 60 cm above it (Snow and Perrins 1998). Alternatively nests may be placed in low bushes or trees (e.g. alder Alnus spp. or willow Salix spp.) up to 2 m above water (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Preferred nesting sites are usually 5-15 m out from the shore in water 20-30 cm deep (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species usually nests singly but may nest in loose colonies in favourable habitats with neighbouring nests as close as 5 m apart (solitary nests are usually 30-100 m apart) (Kushlan and Hancock 2005). Nests are often reused in consecutive years (Kushlan and Hancock 2005).

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Hafner, H.; Kushlan, J. A. 2002. Action plan for conservation of the Herons of the world. Heron Specialist Group, Gland, Cambridge and Arles.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Kushlan, J. A.; Hancock, J. A. 2005. The herons. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Species factsheet from HeronConservation - The IUCN-SSC Heron Specialist Group

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Ixobrychus minutus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Ardeidae (Herons)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1766)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 27,700,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment