Black Bittern

Scientific Name: Ixobrychus flavicollis

Malay Name: Gelam Hitam

Chinese Name: 黑鳽

Range: Found from the Indian subcontinent to southern China, Southeast Asia and northern Australia with some northern population wintering in Southeast Asia

Taxonomy: Polytypic. Subspecies are: flavicollis, australis, woodfordi.

Local Subspecies: flavicollis

Size: 54-61 cm

Identification: Male has black upperparts, whitish throat, whitish breast with dense dark streaks, and yellow neck-patch. Female resembles male but has darker brown upperparts and more rufescent breast-streaks. Juvenile resemble female but feathers of the crown and upperside have narrow rufous fringes, giving a scaly appearance.

Habitat: Marshes, reedbeds in ponds, and mangroves.

Behaviour/Ecology: Often secretive, hiding in reeds for long periods of time.

Local Status: Uncommon migrant

Conservation Status: Least Concern (BirdLife International 2016)

Location: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Satay by the Bay, Chinese Gardens, Bidadari, Pasir Ris Park, Pulau Ubin, Tuas South and Sungei Buloh.

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Migrant bar chart (see more bar charts):

Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis
Estimated average number of individuals by week based on eBird data, Jul 2013 to Jun 2023
Peak week Dec 17-Dec 23
Early date 02 Jul 2022
Late date 30 Jun 2022
Nov to Apr is the best period to catch this scarce migrant, although oversummering has been recorded recently. (Data in the chart is only until Jun 2022.)


BirdLife International. (2016). Ixobrychus flavicollis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Accessed on 1 January 2023

Jeyarajasingam, A., & Pearson, A. (2012). A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Oxford University Press.

Robson, C. (2014). Field guide to the birds of South-East Asia (Second Edition). Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

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