Little Bittern

Ixobrychus minutus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Ardea minuta: Radakoff, 1879: 173; Ardeola minuta: Hristovich, 1890: 218; Ardetta minuta: Reiser, 1894: 152; Klain, 1909: 112.

Order Ciconiiformes

Family Ardeidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [C], BDA-II, III; International: BeC-II, BoC-II, ESC-Spec 3, BD-I.

General distribution. A species of the Old World breeding in Europe, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma, Africa in the south from Sahara, Australia. It winters from Africa (to the south of Sahara) to India.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor. It is found almost throughout the country, at altitudes under 600 m [1, 2], and in some mountains (the Balkan range, Sredna Gora, Lozenska Planina) [1]. Wintering birds have been registered near the city of Plovdiv, Beloslav Lake, the village of Strumsko, Blagoevgrad region [1] and the village of Tyulenovo, Dobrich region [2]. At present its breeding distribution mainly embraces the Danube valley and the Black Sea coast and is less frequently within the country. The numbers are estimated at 1 000 [1], 200-2000 [3], even 5 000 [4] breeding pairs. The highest concentration of breeding habitats are in the Danube valley, the Thracian, Tundzha and Burgas lowlands and in the Sofia field.

Habitats. Mainly freshwater basins in the low parts of the country. It prefers vast reedbeds and bushes in freshwater marshes and flooded areas and in the lower reaches of large rivers [5]. Outside the breeding season it is also found in habitats that are non-typical of the species, such as deserted terrains and the environs of forests in the low parts of the mountains.

Biology. It inhabits standing overgrown water basins. It lays 2-9 eggs that it incubates for 16-21 days. It has 1-3 generations yearly. It feeds on insects, spiders, mollusks, crustaceans, small fish and small amphibians and their larvae.

Similar species. Schrenck's Bittern(Ixobrychus eurythmus).

Negative factors. Insufficiently known, most probably destruction of the habitats, pollution, illegal hunting.

Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Some habitats (the lakes Srebarna, Atanasovsko, Durankulak, Shabla) are in Protected Natural Territories.

Conservation measures needed. Inclusion in Protected Natural Territories of non-protected habitats (for example in the Sofia field, the valley of the Tundzha, etc.)

References. 1. Simeonov et al., 1990; 2. Collections of the Natural History Museum, BAS; 3. Kostadinova, 1997; 4. Nankinov et al., 2004; 5. Harrison, 1982.

Author: Zlatozar Boev

Little Bittern (distribution map)

Little Bittern (drawing)