[order] Ciconiiformes | [family] Ardeidae | [latin] Ixobrychus minutus | [UK] Little Bittern | [FR] Blongios nain | [DE] Zwergdommel | [ES] Mirasol Pequeño | [IT] Tarabusino comune | [NL] Woudaap

Woudaap determination

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This bird is distinguishable from other herons because it is very small, its head and upper body are dark, its wing covers are cream coloured and very conspicuous, and its lower body is light coloured. The male's head and back are black with green highlights; the female has brown stripes on its upper body and tawny stripes on its lower body; its wing covers are also tawny but less evident. Its beak is yellowish and its legs green. It flies very low, with quick wing beats and long gliding movements.

From dense forest to deserts and from lowlands to hills. Fresh water, areas with aquatic vegetation or on forested margins of shallow rivers, streams, pools, ponds, lakes, swamps and mangroves.

Ixobrychus minutus is a widespread summer visitor to much of central and southern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (<120,000 pairs), and underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although the species was stable overall during 1990-2000, with stable or increasing trends across much of its European range (Turkey being a notable exception), its population has clearly not yet recovered to the level that preceded its decline.
This small heron inhabits a large part of Africa, Eurasia from the Iberian Peninsula and the Baltic coast to western China and Pakistan. It also occurs in Australia. The European populations are mainly wintering in tropical and southern Africa. Since 20-25 years they are strongly declining, and in several regions this decline reaches about 50-80%. The population of the European Union is estimated at 4300-6500 breeding pairs (Tucker & Heath). This decline cannot be explained solely by problems encountered in the breeding areas, like wetland reclamation, pollution and disturbance. Its seems also to be linked to problems in the winter quarters, especially the increasing climatic dryness which is responsible for the disappearance of many wetlands in the Sahel Region

Very varied diet, including Fish, frogs, spiders, small reptiles and birds. Feeds around dawn and dusk but can feed during day. Mainly feeds alone like all Ixobrychus, by standing motionless or "walking slowly" partially hidden amidst vegetation.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 82,000-590,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

It nests from May in dense thickets and along canals. It is not a colonial bird; the nest is constructed by twigs and measures a diameter of approximately 12-15 cm. The 4-6 eggs usually laid are whitish-green and are brooded by both sexes for 17-19 days.

Migratory and dispersive. Post-fledging dispersal late July to early September, random in direction; merges into southward migration in August-September as adults depart, with few (mainly juveniles) left in Europe after October. Principal winter quarters of west Palearctic breeders east Africa, from Sudan and Ethiopia west to Congo and south to Transvaal and eastern Cape Province. Not infrequently appears in Azores, Madeira, and Canary Islands, while migration through Iberia and occurrences Moroccan and Algerian oases suggest that some winter in west Africa. Return across Mediterranean Basin from mid-March; breeding areas of central Europe and south Russia reoccupied in April and first week of May.