Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)

Yellow Bittern

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ixobrychus sinensis | [authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [UK] Yellow Bittern | [FR] Blongios de Chine | [DE] Chinadommel | [ES] Avetorillo chino | [NL] Chinees Woudaapje


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Ixobrychus sinensis OR widespread, also e Asia


Ixobrychus is a genus of bitterns, a group of wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae. It has a single representative species in each of North America, South America, Eurasia and Australasia. The tropical species are largely resident, but the two northern species are partially migratory, with many birds moving south to warmer areas in winter. The Ixobrychus bitterns are all small species, their four larger relatives being in the genus Botaurus. They breed in large reedbeds, and can often be difficult to observe except for occasional flight views due to their secretive behaviour.

Physical charateristics

This is a small species at 38 cm length, with a short neck and longish bill. The male is uniformly dull yellow above and buff below. The head and neck are chestnut, with a black crown. The female’s crown, neck and breast are streaked brown, and the juvenile is like the female but heavily streaked brown below, and mottled with buff above.

Listen to the sound of Yellow Bittern

[audio: Bittern.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by vir joshi

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 30 cm size max.: 40 cm
incubation min.: 20 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 7  


Oriental Region : widespread, also East Asia. Resident throughout East Asia from China, India, Southeast Asia to New Guinea and Micronesia. Visitor to Borneo.


Yellow Bitterns prefer freshwater wetlands with thick vegetation to hide and nest in: marshes, grasslands, reedbeds, ponds, reservoirs, including man-made canals, dredge-mine lagoons. They may also be found near mangroves. They are found in wetter habitats than the Cinnamon Bittern.


The males perform a breeding display, advertising from bush tops, hunched with throat puffed out and base of the bill flushed red, accompanied by a soft, monotonous crrew crrew song. They also make slow-flapping flight circuits and pursue females. Yellow Bitterns prefer to nest in dense vegetation near water. In Singapore, they used to nest among the fern thickets and Water Hyacinths in the swamps at Kranji. Elsewhere, they also nest in tall rushes and reeds, flooded rice fields, undergrowth, dense trees near water. Where there are a lot of Yellow Bitterns in one area, they may nest near each other. They make a small neat nest, generally a thick pad of sticks, reeds, grass. Nests are 10cm-3m above the water line, sometimes roofed by surrounding vegetation. 3-5, average 4, pale blue-green eggs are laid. Both parents share incubation duties for about 3 weeks. The chicks have pale peach-pink down and can climb before they can fly. The chicks stay away from the nest from about day 15.

Feeding habits

It feeds on a variety of aquatic insects, small fish, frogs, crustaceans and molluscs

Video Yellow Bittern


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


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). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds 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.
The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing or have unknown trends
Yellow Bittern status Least Concern


N populations (S to C China) migrate to S of range, to Philippines and Indonesia, some birds reaching Wallacea and New Guinea; leave in Oct and return in mid-Apr. Passes through Malay Peninsula Oct-Dec and Mar-Apr. Migration take place by night. S populations (including some of S Japan, S China, N Burma and N Indochina) sedentary. Resident in India with some local movements related to water conditions; may perform some regular migration. Long distance migration has permitted colonization of remote Pacific islands and Seychelles. Accidental to Australia and Christmas I (Indian Ocean).

Distribution map

Yellow Bittern distribution range map

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