(2236) Ixobrychus minuta minuta.
The Little Bittern.
Ardea minuta Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed., i,p. 240 (1766) (Helvetia). Ardetta minuta,. Blanf, & Oates, iv, p. 400.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. - Male. Crown, nape, crest, back, scapulars, rump, tail and innermost secondaries glossy black; feathers above lores, sides of head and neck greyish-pink or vinous ; centre of throat and neck almost white, the sides yellowish-buff; innermost coverts buff, paling to lavender-grey on the outer, the greater coverts almost white; primaries, primary coverts and outer secondaries blackish-brown or grey; upper breast ochre; lower breast blackish-maroon the feathers edged and tipped with pale golden-buff, hardly showing under the long, lanceolate ochre feathers of the upper breast; centre of abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts almost white; flanks ochre with faint dark shaft-lines.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale yellow to orange-yellow; bill yellow, creamy-yellow or purplish-yellow, the culmen darker and browner; orbital skin pale livid green; legs and feet greenish-yellow, dull greenish-plumbeous or greenish-horny.
Measurements. Wing 138 to 156 mm.; tail 46 to 53 mm.; tarsus 45 to 51 mm.; culmen 46 (once 44 mm.) to 52 mm.
Female. Sides of head and neck more rufous than in the male; back, scapulars and innermost secondaries chestnut-brown, each feather edged with buff ; wings darker and more buff than in the male and with the shoulder chestnut-brown; sides of the breast deep chestnut with pale buff streaks; thigh-coverts, flanks and lower breast boldly streaked with deep rufous ; the whole of the fore-neck shows more or less dark streaking throughout.
Young birds are dark brown above, each feather edged with rufous; neck-feathers darker rufous than in the female; sides of neck and underparts white or buff, boldly streaked with chestnut and buff.
Distribution. Europe, Northern Africa, Central Asia as far East as India. In the latter country it is resident from Sind to the United Provinces and Nepal.
Nidification. The Little Bittern breeds from the end of June to September in the Himalayas, whilst Doig found eggs in the Eastern Narra, Sind, in May and August. The nest is placed in among reeds and weeds in swamps or on the edges of lakes and ponds ; generally it is placed low down within a few inches of the ground or water but sometimes two or three feet above it. The nest itself is a pad of rushes, rush-blades or grass flimsy and loosely constructed but nearly always supported by a platform of broken-down rushes. The hen-bird sits very close,, Davidson catching several by hand, whilst the nest is so well concealed that it would be hard to locate did she not give it away by uttering a chuckling croak as she flutters off. The eggs number four or five to seven and are quite white, whilst in shape they are broad ovals, very little smaller at the small end than at the tip-Fifty eggs average 34.0 x 26.0 mm.: maxima 36.8 x 25.4 and 33.0 x 27.3 mm.; minima 30.1 x 25.1 mm.
Habits. The Little Bittern is extremely common in Kashmir but becomes rarer towards the East, though it has occurred, once at least, in Cachar. It is a visitor only to the plains of the Punjab but breeds in Sind and is apparently resident. Like alt the small Bitterns it keeps during the day to dense reeds and other cover, feeding during the mornings and evenings and, possibly, all night, on frogs, fish, Crustacea, worms etc. When beaten out of its hiding-place it flies but a short distance and then re-seeks cover. It is very active on foot and climbs the reeds with ease and celerity, uttering a hoarse, very low croak as it moves about.