Black Bittern, Ixobrychus flavicollis Click to enlarge image
Black Bittern, Ixobrychus flavicollis Image: Purnell Collection
Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    flavicollis
    Genus
    Ixobrychus
    Family
    Ardeidae
    Order
    Ciconiiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    54 cm to 66 cm

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

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.

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.

Distribution

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



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.

Breeding behaviours

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

Conversation status

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

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.