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Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday's Foto

The Least Bittern is North America's smallest member of the heron family. This teeny, secretive bird weighs a mere 3 ounces or the equivalent of 6 tablespoons of water. What it lacks in size, though, it makes up for in appearence: the dominate color is a buffy-orange found on its face, neck and sides, as well as, a large patch on its wings. It has chestnut and buff-stripes on a white throat. The crown and back are black or dark brownish. The bill, legs and feet are yellow as are its eyes. A species of freshwater marshes and reedy ponds its diet consists mainly of small fish, frogs, crustaceans and insects (such as dragonflies and beetles). Like its larger relative, the American Bittern, when alarmed it will point its bill up, freeze in place and slowly sways to resemble wind-blown cattails or reeds.

Breeding in wetland areas throughout the Eastern and Central United States, they overwinter from our southern states, south through Central America to Colombia. There are some resident populations in central Mexico and the West Indies.

Their conservation status according to the IUCN Red List is "Least Concern". While not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List, the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan rates it a Species of High Concern. In addition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation list it as "Threatened" in this state.

The Least Bittern's scientific name, Ixobrychus exilis, means reed-like; little or slender.

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