Animal Species:Black Bittern

Black Bitterns are seen in daylight more often than other bitterns.

Black Bittern, at nest with chicks

Purnell Collection © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Black Bittern

Alternative Name/s

Yellow-necked Bittern

Identification

The Black Bittern is a sooty black or dark brown bittern with a yellow patch on the sides of the neck, extending from the throat to the wing. The feathers on the crown and lower neck are almost plumes. The legs are dark.

Size range

54 cm to 66 cm

Similar Species

Striated Herons are also found in mangroves but are smaller (up to 49 cm) and are lighter grey with a black cap.

Distribution

Black Bitterns are found in coastal south-western, northern and eastern Australia south to far eastern Victoria.

Habitat

Black Bitterns roost and nest in trees, and are found in tree-lined wetlands and in mangroves. They forage in both daylight and darkness, mainly from shady trees over water, but may be seen during the day in open areas of short marshy vegetation and along creeks in shrubby vegetation.

Seasonality

Black Bitterns are sedentary throughout the year.

Feeding and Diet

Black Bitterns feed on a wide range of small animals, but mainly fish and amphibians. They stalk prey slowly or stand and wait for prey to emerge, but may sometimes plunge at it from a perch, before stabbing it with their sharp bills.

Communication

Loud repeated cooing.

Mating and reproduction

Black Bitterns nest in trees over water. The nest is a loose platform with a shallow depression in the centre.

  • Breeding season: September to April
  • Clutch size: Up to five, usually three

Conservation Status

Loss of wetlands by draining reduces the range of habitats available to the Black Bittern.

Classification

Species:
flavicollis
Genus:
Ixobrychus
Family:
Ardeidae
Order:
Ciconiiformes
Class:
Aves
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.
  • Higgins, P.J. and S.J.J.F. Davies (eds) 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 3 (Snipe to Pigeons). Oxford University Press, Victoria.
  • Slater, P, Slater, P, and Slater, R 1989. The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds. Lansdowne. Revised edition.


Ian Hume
Last Updated:

Tags BIBY, bird, birds, bitterns, water birds, identification,