Sunday, September 21, 2014

Least Bittern (Petit Blongios) in Toronto

Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis
Colonel Samuel Smith Park
Toronto, ON
21 September 2014

     Given its tiny stature and its ability to disappear into a wetland without a trace, any sighting of a Least Bittern is a rare and special event. Thus it was that this individual provided an enormous amount of pleasure when viewed for about ten minutes feeding at the edge of a reed bed.

     The bird measures a mere 28 - 36 cm from the tip of its toes to the end of its bill so you can well imagine that the body area is quite small, about the size of a Common Starling in fact. Its large feet are well adapted to life in dense shoreline vegetation.

     This individual (probably a female) appeared to be feeding primarily on small fish but I was never quick enough to snap a picture as it captured its prey. Many Bluets (sp. ?) were dancing above the water and mating and these too seemed to attract the attention of the bittern.

     This was my first sighting of Least Bittern in Ontario in many years.

     There was much else to be seen and Red-necked Grebes Podiceps grisegena seemed to have had a successful breeding season.

     These snails had worked their way up to the top of a seeding plant that obviously held some attraction for them.

     Three wing-tagged Trumpeter Swans Olor buccinator had recently arrived from their northern breeding area and were seen swimming together on Lake Ontario.

     A Green Heron Butorides virescens was stalking prey and a nearby Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias seemed oblivious to everything going on around it.

     Several Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata seem to have recently arrived from the north and doubtless it will not be long before many other waterfowl species arrive also. This female was accompanied by several males in eclipse plumage.

     As noted on earlier posts Monarchs seem to have done at least somewhat better than in recent years and there was no shortage of this species in floral meadows.

David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. Oh gosh, what an amazing post! Terrific sightings, and photos! You sure know the "hot spots" David.

  2. Hello David,
    Very good shots!! Wonderful that Bittern.
    Nice shots of the butterfly with great colors

    Greetings, Marco

  3. Hello David,
    Beautiful pictures.
    My favorite are the butterflies and bittern.
    I wish you a good new week.
    Best regards, Irma

  4. Excelentes fotografías y muy buen post. Saludos desde España.

  5. Hi David!
    I am very impressed with post!
    first the Least bittern is a real beauty, those feathers and their color are gorgeous!
    A good try on these damsel tandems laying!! Getting into the dragon world after all??!!! LOL!
    The Red-necked grebe is also an lovely bird, one I'd like to see one day.
    Impressive GB heron and the monarch is a must!
    Good to know it is doing better!
    Keep well, hugs to the both of you!

    1. When you come to visit I will show you a Red-necked Grebe. Promise!

  6. Boy, that's quite a collection of birds and photos! The least Bittern pix are outstanding!

  7. J'adore les photos d'oiseaux et je connais la difficulté pour les photographier

  8. I had no idea that the Least Bittern were so small. No wonder they are difficult to find. Our Great Bitterns are getting on for three times the (linear) size and are hard enough to see, even when you know that they are there! A super collection of other wildlife too.

    I'm about to embark on a Hedgehog training session, ready for your visit next year, and have just bought a bell to announce dinner time to them, and also invested in some special Hedgehog food to supplement the mealworms, peanuts and sunflower hearts that I started to give them a few weeks ago!

    Best wishes to you both.

    1. That's it then, Richard, it's settled. In my next life I want to come back as a Hedgehog and live in your garden.

  9. Beautiful photos of the birds, Monarchs is wonderful. With best regards.

  10. Brilliant captures,love your Least Bittern,for me the star of the show is the Monarch,superb images.

  11. Really enjoyed your post! And all that wild excitement in the great city of Toronto! Wow. Who'd a thunk it? I don't think of nature when I think of Toronto so now I need to rethink. Happy birding! And thanks for sharing your sightings.

  12. Geez .... this is really again enviable David !!! Beautifully those little bittern and what an amazing beautiful colors this! Also you butterflies, egg-depositing dragonflies, herons and wild swans are great. my compliment

  13. Beautiful pictures, David!


Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.