“Most of my Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) sightings were over paddy fields. Being extremely skittish water birds, their presence were seen mainly when accidentally flushed out. They then took to dashy low, straight flight paths only to land another 100-200 metres further away.
“At most by then, one could only appreciate a head peeping out between those paddy stalks via the Fieldscope. Otherwise, the image by naked eye would be just…. but a tiny dot.
“While their movements have been poorly understood, there were times they were totally absent from sight.
Behavior of males changed dramatically during the breeding season as I soon observed one late August morning.
“A breeding male of red facial skin and orangey bill was unusually seen perched open on a wire cable alongside paddy field. Noted to be both an obscured, shy resident and passage migrant, he turned exhibitionist!
“Soon, he made his presence felt by an advertising fly pass to hopefully catch the attention of a female on the other side of the field. To woo further, he flew to a centre stage perch of another wire cable to begin his courtship calls and macho stunt performance.
“Let’s check him out…….
“In semi-crouched, classical posture and with bill tilted upwards, the male bellowed continuously with his throat (above left). The hormone raging male subsequently paused and turned his head (above right).
“Of course…he was checking out to see if his courtship calls caught the attention of the female he was vying. The breeding calls sounded a continuous ‘kok-kok-kok-kok-kok.’ Unfortunately, I was too far away to have my camera picked up the calls.
“The nearest substitute of a normal Cinnamon Bittern’s call could be heard at AVOCET LINK – specimen No: AV#9148 & AV#9149 by Recordist Dr Pamela C. Rasmussen.
“This is when a good quality tape recorder justifies its primary usage – to record bird calls of unknown species, rarities, bird calls with limited data such as in this situation for knowledge and science.
“The circus performance began with the breeding male preening vigorously- like getting ready for a full dress rehearsal (above left).
“Wearing a cinnamon-rufous plumage with distinctive central brown-streaked line from throat to upper chest and with red painted face, the courting male then performed the tight wire walk with stealth (above right).
“Doesn’t he look cool…..
“At the same time, the suitor stole a side glance in search of a bravado approval from his potential mate (above left).
“A gallery of low tree bushes lined the boundary edge of the opposite paddy field. Two other male suitors lay in waiting over a supposedly female-the latter decided to crank her head, perhaps raised a curious half eyelid to steal a prospecting look at the direction where the breeding calls and performance came from (below left).
“Competition was kind of stiff and this breeding male Cinnamon Bittern rejected look on his face don’t show he was in luck that day (above right).
“I returned the next day to chance a follow up. The flying chase was on and for more than two hours, a female was observed to being chased all over paddy fields by a persistent, breeding male.
“What a flying game of exhibiting the many splendors of love by Trivial Pursuit!”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Optics used: Fieldscope ED82+30x+Camera P3. Binoculars: 8×32
Copyright article and Images copy:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Birding Conservation Fund
Acknowledgement and thanks:
Dr. Pamela C. Rasmussen for permission to reference her recordings at AVOCET.