Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis)

Black Bittern

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Dupetor flavicollis | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] Black Bittern | [FR] Blongios a cou jaune | [DE] Schwarzdommel | [ES] Avetorillo Negro | [NL] Zwarte Roerdomp


Monotypic species


Chang et al. (2003) found the Black Bittern embedded in Ixobrychus. It’s sometimes put in a monotypic genus Dupetor, which is here considered part of Ixobrychus. The Black Bittern, Ixobrychus flavicollis, is a bittern of Old World origin, breeding in tropical Asia from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka east to China, Indonesia and Australia. It is mainly resident, but some northern birds migrate short distances.

Physical charateristics

The Black Bittern is a heron, dark grey to black in colour, with buff streaks on the throat and a characteristic yellow streak on the sides of the head and down the neck. The female is paler than the male, with a more yellow wash on the underparts. The species has a characteristic booming call that is mainly heard during the breeding season, at day or night. The colour alone readily distinguishes it from the other two much paler bittern species.

wingspan min.: 75 cm wingspan max.: 85 cm
size min.: 54 cm size max.: 66 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


Oriental Region, Australasia : widespread. The Black Bittern has a wide distribution, from southern NSW north to Cape York and along the north coast to the Kimberley region. The species also occurs in the south-west of Western Australia. In NSW, records of the species are scattered along the east coast, with individuals rarely being recorded south of Sydney or inland.


Inhabits both terrestrial and estuarine wetlands, generally in areas of permanent water and dense vegetation. Where permanent water is present, the species may occur in flooded grassland, forest, woodland, rainforest and mangroves.


Nests may be located on a branch overhanging water and consists of a bed of sticks and reeds on a base of larger sticks. There is limited information regarding breeding. The clutch size is thought to be between 3 and 5 and both the male and female are involved in incubation and rearing of young.

Feeding habits

Feeds on frogs, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, including snails, dragonflies, shrimps and crayfish, with most feeding done at dusk and at night.

Video Black Bittern


copyright: Curt Kessler


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 is very large, and hence does not 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.
Black Bittern status Least Concern


In India, local movements depending on water conditions, although some migration may occur: 1 bird ringed in Malaysia in Dec 1965 recovered in Manipur (NE India) in Nov 1965; 1 bird ringed in India captured in Maldives. Population of S China migrates S to Malay Peninsula from Oct on, where remains till Apr-May; also winters in Greater Sundas and Philippines. Australian birds essentially sedentary, although sometimes forced by drought conditions to move about. Vagrant to Christmas I (Indian Ocean), Moluccas, Guam (Mariana Is) and NC Japan.

Distribution map

Black Bittern distribution range map

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