Yellow bittern

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A male yellow bittern is seen perching on a branch at Honghu Park in Luohu District on April 10, 2021. Photos by Isaac Cohen

Yellow bittern

The fascinating yellow bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), a resident bird though not too abundant in the city, always attracts the attention of bird lovers. The medium-sized bird, with its astonishing characteristics, will amaze even the less enthusiastic of spectators.


A male yellow bittern streches its neck while perching on a branch at Honghu Park in Luohu District on April 10, 2021.

The bird can grow up to 40 centimeters in length, with a wingspan measuring around 50 centimeters. Its head is decorated with a beautiful dark blue crown that contrasts with its brown forehead and its beautiful light brown throat that at the same time is decorated with stripes. The sides of the bird are a reddish brown, and its back is brown as well. The underparts of the wings display a striking dark blue at the tips and the bird has a black tail. The legs are yellow and green; the eyes are yellow; and the beak displays a whitish color with a slight tint of yellow. Females can be paler, with darker patches under the wings.


Yellow bitterns love inhabiting bushy marshes and water bodies surrounded by dense vegetation. Though not easy to find and see, they are a total delight to observe if you are lucky to meet them. The bird sometimes stretches its neck from a low overlying branch into the surface of the water to catch small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, larvae or insects. They move slowly and secretly, being good fishers.


A yellow bittern chick practices flying in a lotus pond at Honghu Park in Luohu District on July 5.

Depending on the place they inhabit and primarily the temperature of the region, their breeding season may vary slightly from one population to another. The birds in China are generally active from May to August, producing clutches of up to six eggs that will be incubated for about three weeks by both parents. Newborns will receive food from their parents for two to three weeks, after which they will be ready to leave the nest.


A chick begs its parent bird for food in a lotus pond at Honghu Park in Luohu District on July 5.

Yellow bitterns are definitely one of the species that we cannot miss in our beautiful and diverse city of Shenzhen.