Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Bruce A. Sorrie
Photo Copyright Bruce A. Sorrie

The least bittern, Ixobrychus exilis, occurs from extreme southern Canada to northeastern Argentina. It is of occasional occurrence in Utah, being an extremely rare breeder at a few scattered locations in the state during summer. It inhabits freshwater and brackish marshes with dense, tall emergent vegetation such as cattails, sedges, and bulrushes. The diet of the least bittern consists mainly of small fishes, but snakes, frogs, tadpoles, aquatic invertebrates, small mammals, and the eggs and nestlings of birds are also taken.

The nest, a platform with an overhead canopy, is constructed mostly by the male and is usually placed over water one-half foot to three feet up in emergent marsh vegetation, but rarely may be on the ground. The clutch consists of two to seven eggs, which are incubated by both parents for nineteen to twenty days. Both parents feed the young, which fledge after another twenty-five days. Two broods are commonly produced each nesting season.


  • Gibbs, J. P., F. A. Reid, and S. M. Melvin. 1992. Least bittern. Birds of North America 17: 1–11.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.