China is a good place to see bitterns.  In addition to the Great Bittern (the one familiar to European readers), it is also possible to see Black Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Von Schrenck’s Bittern and Yellow Bittern.  Of the smaller bitterns, the Yellow Bittern is most numerous in Beijing with Von Schrenck’s also breeding in small numbers.  Cinnamon is an occasional (and increasing?) late Spring visitor (and possible breeder?) and there is just one record of Black Bittern.

Below are some images of Cinnamon, Von Schrenck’s and Yellow Bitterns, all taken in Beijing or neighbouring Hebei Province.

First, the beautiful richly coloured Cinnamon Bittern.

Cinnamon Bittern (male). No mistaking this species!

Cinnamon Bittern (presumed female with streaking below and pale spotting on the upperparts).

Next up, Von Schrenck’s Bittern.  The males and females look quite different.

Von Schrenck’s Bittern (male). Note the dark back, dark face and wing pattern (compared with Yellow Bittern below).

Von Schrenck’s Bittern (male).

Von Schrenck’s Bittern (female). Note the heavy and dark streaking.

Von Schrenck’s Bittern (female). Note the white-spotted upperparts combined with the dark back and face.

Finally, the Yellow Bittern.  A common breeder, including in the Olympic Forest Park and Yeyahu NR.

Yellow Bittern (male). The contrasting underwing is a good feature of Yellow Bittern).

Yellow Bittern showing uppewing pattern.  This individual has a particularly dark back.

Yellow Bittern.

Yellow Bittern from below.

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About Terry Townshend

I am a British birder living and birding in Beijing from August 2010 until 2015. Through this blog I hope I can convey a sense of what it is like to live in this thriving, confident and contrasting city and the birdlife that can be found in its environs. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Terry Townshend, Beijing September 2010
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8 Responses to Bitterns

  1. Nice set Terry. I remember the much blacker flight feathers of Yellow cf Von Schrenk’s being a useful field character when flushing small bitterns at Bedaihe many years ago, especially when, as one of your photos shows, occasionally Yellow has an upper wing covert pattern quite similar to that of VSB.

  2. Ken Turnip says:

    Great photos. I’ve only seen yellow, which is a nice species… but the others here look stunning.

    • Thanks Ken. I love bitterns.. It’s great to have Yellow Bittern breeding in a central Beijing park and it’s not *too* difficult to see Von Schrenck’s and Cinnamon at the right time of year.

  3. John Holmes says:

    You did well to get the flight shots …! Cinnamon and Schrenk’s are particularly attractive.

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