Yellow Bittern – courtship behaviour

posted in: birds, Courtship-Mating | 0

I had an opportunity to observe part of the courtship ritual of Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) today. In 2012 I had posted an observation about one type of courtship behaviour (Display Type I, Lansdown & Rajanathan 1993); repeated crest-raising displays with neck/throat puffed out. This occurred to one-to-one, i.e. one male to one female. I suspect this ‘Display Type I’ is the late stage of the courtship when a mate has been chosen.

Three birds in the circular flight chase.

Today I observed a number of Yellow Bitterns chasing each other or ‘Circular Flight’ (Display Type II, Lansdown & Rajanathan 1993). On one occurrence there were 5; but for all the other times only 3 or 4 were involved. One bird would launch out from its perch in the tall reeds and fly over the large ex-mining pool. A second, third and fourth bird would follow. They would fly in a large circle, following each other, and return to the reeds (not the same exact site). There were occasions where a single bird would come out to do this circle flight. No calls or altercations were observed during this behaviour. At the reed resting site I did see one bird approach another but it was rebuffed. I watched this happen 6 times over 20 minutes before I moved on (they were still at it). From the distance I located, I could not be sure if it was males chasing females (as mentioned by Lansdown & Rajanathan 1993), or the ratio of males to females. I saw no ‘song-post’ described by these two observers.


  1. Wells, D.R. (1999) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passerines). Christopher Helm, London
  2. Lansdown, R.V. and Rajanathan R. (1993) Some Aspects of the Ecology of Ixobrychus Bitterns Nesting in Malaysia Ricefields. Colonial Waterbirds. Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 98-101. Published by Waterbird Society.
  3. IUCN-SCC Heron Specialist Group (Heron Conservation: Black-crowned Night-Heron; available here: also offered some information on


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Location: Outskirts of Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Wetlands

Date: 22nd June 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

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