Least Bittern

Ixobrychus exilis

The Least Bittern is the smallest heron in the world, the Australia and New Guinea’s Black-Backed Bittern, and Africa’s Dwarf Bittern are also quite small. Northern South America hosts the Stripe-Backed Bittern, which rivals these birds for most diminutive. Few places in the USA host these birds year-round. Southern California, the Texas Gulf, and Florida are such places.

During the breeding season, there are only a few locations in the western coastal states where these herons move north to breed, but they are wide ranging in the east during the summer months. During winter, these birds migrate as far south as Brasil, Uruguay and Paraguay in South America.

Able to squeeze its body through passages as small as an inch and a half, these birds can move unnoticed through dense reeds. The Least Bittern’s “pumping” calls will betray its presence long before we will see it.

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