The Black Bittern

I just returned from the Bhadra Tiger Reserve. Bhadra always springs a surprise or two in sightings. In my case, there were a few more than just two. Hopefully, in the next few months I shall be documenting these wonderful experiences. I will begin with one of the rare sighting at Bhadra, and a first for me.

Have you ever played the game Passing the Password or Chinese Password as a kid? At first, the news came that a Black Pitta was seen. Black Pitta ??! We looked in the Wiki, Google, several editions of field guides and books on birds, just in case any of the Pittas has had a change of name 😉  We went repeatedly in search of this bird and finally found it after a couple of days. The name of the bird had been passed around 3-4 people and by the time we heard about it, the Black Bittern had been rechristened as the Black Pitta !

We saw the Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, standing in a pond. It was there in its typicalClose-up and streaks style, with its neck drawn in and standing with a ‘hunched’ back. The adult is largely black in color. It has a very noticeable yellow cheek patch and the underparts have dark, heavy streaks. It is a solitary bird and prefers to be around dense swamps, inland swamps, overgrown seepage nullas in jungles. It is very shy, skulks around its habitat during the day, and is mostly nocturnal and crepuscular (i.,e active in twilight, like bats). All of these make it very difficult to see a Bittern.

During breeding, it chooses reed beds. The season is typically between June – September and this is when one can Black Bitternhope to hear its loud booming call. Apparently, the call is so loud that one can hear it even a kilometer away! This bird lays 3 – 5 eggs in nests on reed platforms in shrubs, bamboo clumps or sometimes in trees.

Black Bitterns feed on insects, fish and amphibians. When they arBlack Bittern habitate startled or disturbed, they freeze.

In chemistry, bit-tern is a bitter solution remaining in salt-making after the salt has crystallized out of seawater or brine. Most of the Bitterns have a color similar to this solution and hence, they get their name (Ref: Pakshi Prapanchada Vaividhyate-VismayagaLu; Dr. J C Uttangi, Dr. V K Deshpande). This Kannada field guide refers to the Black Bittern as Kari Javugu Pakshi, while another one refers to Bittern as Guppi.

I haven’t had enough of this bird. I hope to see it again and hear its booming call or see its twilight flight. Waiting…. 🙂

Rana

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4 Comments

  1. g2-bff38b3e67399547eaf1168f84eb7c81 said,

    June 6, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Very nice. It looks like a small bird but to be able to produce as loud a sound as you say, there must be a special organ or anatomical modification. I wonder if there have been any studies on that. Would be interesting to know

    • belurs said,

      June 6, 2013 at 6:47 am

      Thanks Kiran. It is about 58 cm (a bit larger than Indian Pond Heron). We’ll share if we learn anything more about how some birds can produce such loud calls.

  2. deponti said,

    June 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Enjoyed the post about the “black pitta” a lot, but was not able to comment earlier..let me try my luck now 🙂


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