Nature conservation

Threatened species

Black Bittern - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Ixobrychus flavicollis
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 08 Mar 2018


The Black Bittern is a heron, dark grey to black in colour, with buff streaks on the throat and a characteristic yellow streak on the sides of the head and down the neck. The female is paler than the male, with a more yellow wash on the underparts. The species has a characteristic booming call that is mainly heard during the breeding season, at day or night. The colour alone readily distinguishes it from the other two much paler bittern species.


The Black Bittern has a wide distribution, from southern NSW north to Cape York and along the north coast to the Kimberley region. The species also occurs in the south-west of Western Australia. In NSW, records of the species are scattered along the east coast, with individuals rarely being recorded south of Sydney or inland.

Habitat and ecology

  • Inhabits both terrestrial and estuarine wetlands, generally in areas of permanent water and dense vegetation. Where permanent water is present, the species may occur in flooded grassland, forest, woodland, rainforest and mangroves.
  • Feeds on frogs, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, including snails, dragonflies, shrimps and crayfish, with most feeding done at dusk and at night.
  • During the day, roosts in trees or on the ground amongst dense reeds. When disturbed, freezes in a characteristic bittern posture (stretched tall, bill pointing up, so that shape and streaked pattern blend with upright stems of reeds), or will fly up to a branch or flush for cover where it will freeze again.
  • Generally solitary, but occurs in pairs during the breeding season, from December to March.
  • Like other bitterns, but unlike most herons, nesting is solitary. Nests, built in spring are located on a branch overhanging water and consist of a bed of sticks and reeds on a base of larger sticks. Between three and five eggs are laid and both parents incubate and rear the young.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastUpper Hunter Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanBatemans Shelf Predicted None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted None
OceanTwofold Shelf Predicted None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Predicted None
Other StateQLD Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandWoodenbong Known None
Sydney BasinCumberland Known None
Sydney BasinEttrema Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWollemi Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Known None