Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius)


French: Blongios d’Australie German: Schwarzmanteldommel Spanish: Avetorillo australiano
Other common names: Black-backed Bittern

Ixobrychus minutus dubius


, 1912,

Herdman’s Lake, south-western Australia


Often considered conspecific with I. minutus, but shows exceptional vocal differences#R (score 4), and differs further in having dull grey vs blackish flight-feathers (1), stronger chestnut head sides, hindneck and particularly carpal area than on African payesii and Madagascan podiceps (1), and all-buff vs whitish or half-whitish wing patch (2). Also closely related to I. exilis and I. sinensis. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

SW, NC & (mainly) E Australia and New Caledonia; in winter in S New Guinea, where could be a breeder.

Descriptive notes

25–36 cm; 59–120 g; wingspan 41–49 cm. Adult male has glossy black crown, mantle and tail, with deep reddish-brown hindneck, dark wings with large pale buff patches on the... read more


In breeding season, in advertisement and probably territorial defence males utter deep, hoarse low... read more


Favours reedbeds, dense freshwater swamps and well-fringed watercourses, including thick reedbeds (... read more

Food and feeding

No known differences from I. minutus. Recorded taking crustaceans, shrimps, prawns, freshwater crayfish, insects (including... read more


Comparatively poorly known. Season mid Oct–late Jan. Presumably monogamous and typically solitary (but nests may be loosely grouped, 35–150... read more


Probably migratory. During dry season, moves from S to N Australia and perhaps on to New Guinea (... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Apparently rare and local, with core range in Murray-Darling Basin in SE Australia, although may be commoner than thought. Recorded... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).