Fr: Blongios de Chine
Ang: Yellow Bittern
All: Chinadommel
Esp: Avetorillo Chino
Ita: Tarabusino cinese
Nd: Chinese Woudaap
Sd: kinesisk dvärgrördrom


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HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson. New Holland Publishers. ISBN: 9781780090498

A photographic guide to Birds of the Philippines by Tim Fisher and Nigel Hicks. New Holland Publishers. ISBN: 9781847738301

Herons, Egrets and Bitterns: Their Biology and Conservation in Australia Par Neil McKilligan – Editeur : Csiro Publishing, 2005 – ISBN: 0643091335, 9780643091337 – 133 pages

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Yellow Bittern
Ixobrychus sinensis

Pelecaniformes Order – Ardeidae Family

The Yellow Bittern is one of the smallest bitterns of genus Ixobrychus. It frequents densely vegetated wetlands and reedbeds where it remains hidden and very difficult to observe. It typically feeds on fish, amphibians and insects, sitting motionless in marsh vegetation and waiting for prey.
The Yellow Bittern has large range, but the population trend is uncertain with increase and decrease of some populations. But the species is not currently threatened.

Length: 30-40 cm
Wingspan: 45-53 cm
Weight: 80-100 g

The Yellow Bittern adult male has light brown to buffy coloration overall, except for the blackish to blue-grey crown and crest, mostly olive-brown mantel to uppertail-coverts and scapulars, often with pinkish to maroon tinge. On the upperwings, the pale wing-coverts contrast with the blackish flight-feathers. The short tail is black.

The underparts are sandy brown with indistinct darker lines down foreneck and upper breast. The underwing is grey with pale wing-coverts.
During the breeding season, the male shows strong vinous tinge on sides of head and neck, and on the upperparts.

On the head, crown and crest are blackish to blue-grey, and the forehead is brown.
The bill is long and thin, a long dagger-like bill, yellow-horn with dark ridge and tip of upper mandible. The eyes are yellow. Legs and feet are yellowish-green but mostly yellow during the breeding season.   

The Yellow Bittern female resembles male but she is more uniform on the upperparts and the crown is mostly brown with indistinct streaks. Upperparts and hindneck are rufous.
The underparts are dark reddish-brown with buff streaking. The breast sides are black, and there are chestnut-buff streaks on throat, down foreneck to upper breast. She lacks the vinous tinge during the breeding season.

The juvenile resembles female but it has conspicuous dark streaks on crown, upperparts and upperwing-coverts. The underparts are heavily streaked dark.


The Yellow Bittern is found in SE Asia, through Indonesia, Philippines and W Pacific islands.
It is resident in Seychelles, Indian Subcontinent, Sumatra, Philippines, Sulawesi, N Melanesia and W Micronesia.
It breeds in China (except NW and N), Taiwan, N and S Korea, Japan, Sakhalin and Kuril Islands.   
It winters to south in S China, Borneo, Java, Bali, Wallacea and New Guinea.

The Yellow Bittern frequents freshwater swamps and marshes. It can be seen in reedbeds, shrubs and dense aquatic vegetation around rice paddles, lakes and mangrove swamps.
This species occurs mainly in lowland, but in Sumatra, it can be seen up to 1,500 metres of elevation.

The Yellow Bittern in flight gives a “kakak” call described as “kak-kak-kak”. The territorial call is a series of low-pitched “oo-oo-oo” or “crrw-crrw” also given in display and defence of the territory.   

The Yellow Bittern feeds primarily on insects, molluscs, crustaceans, frogs and fish. It forages alone in densely vegetated wet habitats, waiting motionless perched on stems just above or at the edge of the water. When a prey comes close to the bird, it rapidly thrusts down with its long, dagger-like bill to catch it. While foraging, it also gleans, runs and hops depending on prey type.
It is mostly crepuscular, and sometimes nocturnal. But it usually roosts at night and during midday on stems or rice stalks.

At the beginning of the breeding season, the male proclaims the territory with the “stretch” display with hunched posture and inflated throat while giving “crrw” calls. It also performs aerial displays, a circling flight with slow wingbeats before returning to its perch. Other postures show the male with raised crest, stretched wing (only one) while moving its short tail form side to side. It is territorial and defends nest and site.
They are solitary nesters, but they may breed in small scattered groups or small colonies.

The Yellow Bittern of northern range migrates S of range after the breeding season. It usually leaves the breeding grounds in October and returns in mid-April/late May. It migrates at night. It is a long-distance migrant.
The southern populations are sedentary or resident.

The flight is slow and clumsy with dangling legs when the bird takes-off. But when in flight, the legs are stretched backwards and project beyond the tail.

The breeding season takes place in spring, but in subtropical range, it coincides with the rains. It occurs in June-September in India, in July-October in Malaysia, in May-August in Japan and China, and in September-April in the Salomon Islands.
The Yellow Bittern nests in reeds, bamboo or mangrove trees according to the range. The nest is built by the female, a simple platform in small tree or amongst grass or rice, about less than 3 metres above water or ground. They may sometimes nest in trees (an observation reported six nests in the same tree), occasionally in tall trees such as Ficus or mango.
The flat structure is made with grass, leaves, fronds and stalks of marshy vegetation. There is usually some foliage bent over the nest and woven with it to form a canopy.

The female lays 4-6 greenish-blue or pale greenish eggs at one day intervals. Both adults incubate during 17-20 days. At hatching, the chicks have pinkish down and yellow eyes. They are fed by regurgitation by both parents. Within two weeks, they are able to clamber out of the nest, and they leave it three weeks after hatching.
This species may produce 2-3 broods per season.

The Yellow Bittern has large range in which it is relatively common, although the species is rare in some parts of Indochina.
The global population is roughly estimated and placed in the band 100,000/1,000,000 individuals (2006). The trend is uncertain with some increasing numbers while others are decreasing.
But the Yellow Bittern does not appear to be globally threatened and the species is currently evaluated as Least Concern.