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Least Bittern - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Marcel Gauthier
Lacolle, Quebec, Canada, June 2005
Ixobrychus exilis


Chick, subspecies exilis
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Chambers County, Texas, USA, July 2018

28–36 cm (11-15 in)
Adult male

  • Blackish cap
  • Buff to tawny-chestnut face and neck-sides
  • White chin, throat and underparts, with buff-brown streaks


North and South America.
Breeds in much of the eastern and southern USA and extreme south-east Canada. Scarce and local in the west breeding from southern Oregon to California. Breeds widely through Mexico and Central America and in South America from Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and the Guianas to southern Brazil and Uruguay. Also occurs in a narrow coastal belt of Peru.

Northern birds are migratory and winter in the southern USA, Mexico and the West Indies.

Recorded as a vagrant once in Iceland ( on Heimaey in the Westmann Islands in September 1970) and 5 times in the Azores, all September-November, and also an unconfirmed report from Britain.



Photo © by Kadawe
Massachusetts, 30 May 2020

Six subspecies are recognised[1]:

  • exilis:
  • pullus:
  • (darker above) on the Sonora and Sinaloa coast of Mexico
  • bogotensis:
  • (richly-coloured underparts and blacker legs) in central Colombia
  • erythromelas:
  • (more rufous above) over most of South American range
  • limoncochae
  • eastern Ecuador; records from northeastern Peru (Loreto) presumably also this subspecies
  • peruvianus:
  • (duller) on the coast of Peru


Marshy areas with dense vegetation, sometimes brackish waters.



Their diet consists of small fish and aquatic insects, also dragonflies and grasshoppers.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved June 2014)

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1