803. Little Bittern.
Ardetta minuta (Linn.), Syst. Nat. i. p. 240 (1766) ; (Naum.), ix. p. 194, Taf. 227 ; (Hewitson), ii. p. 315, pl. lxxxiii. fig. 1 ; (Gould), B. of E. iv. pl. 282 ; (id.), B. of Gt. Brit. iv. pl. 29 ; Dresser, vi. p. 259, pl. 401 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. Br. Mus. xxvi. p. 222 ; Blanf. F. Brit. Ind. Birds, iv. p. 400 ; Saunders, p. 381 ; Lilford, vii. p. 33, pl. 12.
Heron blongios, French ; Garcenha. Portug. ; Garza pequena, Span. ; Nonnotto, Guacco, Ital. ; Zwergrohrdommel, German ; Woudaapje, Dutch ; Dvoergheira, Dan. ; Dverg-rordrum, Swed. ; Zapla-woltschok, Russ.
Male ad. (Malta). Upper parts, including the head and tail, black glossed with greenish ; sides of head and neck dull vinous grey ; quills purplish black ; wing-coverts ochreous, the larger tinged with dove-blue, under parts ochreous ; the lower neck-feathers elongated ; bill and legs greenish yellow ; iris and bare part round the eye yellow. Culmen 2.1, wing 5.83 tail 2.4, tarsus 1.72 inch. The female is rather smaller, has the head brownish black, the sides of head and neck rufous ; back and scapulars dark chestnut-brown margined with ochreous ; quills dark brown ; a patch of chestnut-red on the shoulder ; chin white, with a central ochreous stripe ; under parts streaked with white. Young birds resemble the female but have the upper parts more varied with buff, and the under parts streaked with deep brown.
Hab. Temperate Europe, straying to Scandinavia and the British Islands, and has however been recorded from the Faeroes and Iceland ; Madeira and the Azores ; northern and central Africa in winter ; Asia Minor and temperate Asia as far east as Northern India.
In habits it is shy and secretive and much resembles the Bittern. It frequents dense reed-beds and slips with ease through the densest thickets. Its flight is easy and swift, and the call-note of the male is a somewhat soft bum, bum, that of the female being gett, gett, gett. It feeds, chiefly by night, on small fish, frogs, and aquatic insects. Its nest is a clumsy structure of aquatic plants and twigs, lined with fine grass or flags, and is placed in the rushes well above the water, or some¬times on a bush. The eggs, 4 to 7 or even 9 in number, are usually deposited in May or June, and are dull white, with a bluish tinge when fresh, and measure about 1.37 by 1.05.
803. Ardetta minuta
803. Little Bittern.