Australian Little Bittern

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Habitat: Wetland


The Australian Little Bittern occurs in diverse freshwater habitats, mainly where tall rushes, reeds, Typha (cumbungi), shrub thickets or other dense cover is inundated by at least 30cm of water. It can be found in vast swamps, but unlike the Australasian Bittern, it often inhabits small patches of dense wetland vegetation such as Typha along drains or in small urban lakes.


The Australian Little Bittern is not much larger than small rails but, unlike them, it rarely comes out onto mudflats or into the open, preferring to remain within or on the edge of wetland vegetation. It is a migratory species in the southern part of its range. They are most vocal during the breeding season in spring and early summer, around sunset and sunrise. They have been found to be much more vocal on warm, calm evenings (compared to cool windy conditions).


Australian Little Bitterns feed on a wide range of crustaceans and insects, including shrimps, prawns, freshwater crayfish, dragonfly larvae, water-boatmen and waterbugs, as well as fish and tadpoles. They perch low on reeds and stems, and patiently wait to stab swimming prey.


The breeding season of the Australian Little Bittern occurs from mid-October to late January. Their nest is a flimsy platform of seedheads, stems, fine twigs, grass, bark, reeds, fine sedges and rushes, sometimes with woven canopies, possibly made by roosting Purple Swamphens. They lay 3–4 eggs which are incubated for 16–21 days by both adults. The fledging period is 25–30 days. Young Australian Little Bitterns remain with their parents for another two weeks, first clambering on reeds around the nest at 9–14 days.