Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

Common Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)


French: Blongios nain German: Zwergdommel Spanish: Avetorillo común
Other common names: Little Bittern

Ardea minuta


, 1766,



Often considered conspecific with I. dubius (which see) and †I. novaezelandiae. Also closely related to I. exilis and I. sinensis. Races payesii and podiceps have been treated as two further species, but their morphological distinctiveness is not great, and it has been noted that nominate and payesii possess similar songs#R. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • I. m. minutus (Linnaeus, 1766) – C & S Europe and N Africa E to W Siberia and through Iran to NW India; winters in Africa.
  • I. m. payesii (Hartlaub, 1858) – Africa S of Sahara.
  • I. m. podiceps (Bonaparte, 1855) – Madagascar.
  • Descriptive notes

    27–38 cm; 59–150 g; wingspan 40–58 cm. Recalls other small bitterns in Africa and Asia, although very similar vagrant I. exilis must be kept in... read more


    Rather silent except during breeding season. Distinctive croaking, barking or grunting call in... read more


    Very varied throughout extensive range, from dense forest to deserts; from lowlands to hills, up to... read more

    Food and feeding

    Varies with region and season, e.g. in South Africa, Spain and NW India, in breeding season, adults and nestlings feed principally on fish... read more


    In W Palearctic (including N Africa) and India nesting mainly May–Jul, but probably earlier in Arabia and once as early as Mar in... read more


    Race minutus undergoes post-breeding dispersal in all directions, commencing Jul (see... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Has declined since mid-20th century in parts of W Palearctic, due to habitat destruction, pollution and perhaps also drought... read more

    Recommended citation

    Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Common Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus). 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 28 January 2020).