Least Bittern

Ixobrychus exilis




Bitterns, Herons and Egrets (Ardeidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale green or blue

Number of Eggs:

2 - 7

Incubation Days:

17 - 20

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

Near or over water., On ground or in low shrub.

Nest Material:

Marsh vegetation with sticks and twigs on top.





Least Bittern: Very small, secretive heron with black cap and back, buff head, neck, and sides, and white throat and belly. Wings have conspicuous pale brown patches visible in flight. A darker brown phase also exists. Sexes are similar.

Range and Habitat

Least Bittern: Breeds in wetland areas throughout the central and eastern U.S., though is absent from the Appalachian Mountains, along the southern Pacific coast. Spends winters from the southern states south to Colombia. Resident in central Mexico and the West Indies. Found in dense marshlands supporting cattails and reeds.

Breeding and Nesting

Least Bittern: Two to seven pale blue to green eggs are laid in a platform nest made of dead and living plant stems, and built about a foot above the water, usually at the base of dried, emergent vegetation. Incubation ranges from 17 to 20 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Least Bittern: Diet consists of small fish, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, leeches, slugs, crayfish, dragonflies, aquatic bugs, and occasionally shrews and mice.


Least Bittern: Song consists of low, muted coos.

Similar Species

Least Bittern: Green Heron is larger, lacks buff on head and wings, and has a dark bill.

The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The area on top of the head of the bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X