Malaysian Birds - Bittern

 From the family of Ardeidae

Bitterns which are water birds and look like heron. In fact Bitterns are classified within the same family of birds as the Herons i.e. Ardeidae.

Bitterns have shorter-neck, most Bitterns [only 2] that I met up with were secretive birds hiding and tend to fly off immediately at first sight. They hide in reed bed and stay in marshy areas looking for amphibians, reptiles, insect and fishes. Unlike Storks or herons which fly with their neck outstretched, Bitterns have their neck retracted.

They are migratory in the sense that I didn't get to see them often. In any case, most Cinnamon Bitterns that I met up with were well hidden in the tall rice stalks.

Yes, Bittern naturally shy, more likely to be heard than to being seen.  Most of the time they have this habits of staying within the bed of water hyacinths which have rather tall leaves. Another favorite habitat is the rice fields. They, also follow a skulking  pattern and weaving in between rice stalks, lastly becoming more active at dusk. In both circumstances, they will never be spotted and having a restful lifestyle.

Most Bittern can be considered to be nocturnal due this nature of hunting. Yellow & Cinnamon Bittern is quite often seen in the daylight hours when the bird stay exposed. However under these conditions and when the Bittern was caught off guard and could not fly off in time, it tried escaping attention by standing motionless with bill uplifted to point to the sky. The beak to look just like a yellowish brown dried rice stalks. This habit dies hard even when they are not staying within the dried rice fields. So the Bittern was forgetting that its brown and yellow markings and striped neck may not be blending well with the green rice stalk. Cannot blame them having that illusion as the only time they could be spotted in open fields would be the period of empty fields after harvest. That time the bird's body color and stripes blends in well with the rich golden cut grasses and ripen rice stalks.

 In south-east Asia, there are only 5 species of Bitterns and all of them could be sighted in Malaysia. As I wrote earlier these shy birds are not easy to meet up with. So I this page I should be contended with the only 2 species that every one here have seen.



  1. Black Bittern  


2. Cinnamon Bittern


  3. Great Bittern  
  4. Schrenck's Bittern  
  5. Yellow Bittern




It is rather easy to ID the Bittern with a fair degree of accuracy. Those in the rice fields are mainly Cinnamon Bittern while those in the Wetlands Yellow Bittern. Moreover Yellow Bittern are seen only in certain months of the year.

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