Cinnamon Bittern (Ixubrychus cinnamomeus) is one of the common breeding visitors in northern Thailand. They can be frequently seen while flying over wetlands and rice fields during wet season, but proved to be quite difficult to find when on the ground. This year, I had my first sighting of this species on 2 May 2021 when a pair was seen flying over Mae Faek paddies, while last year, I observed it between 12 May to 30 September 2020.
Despite the brightly coloured plumage, the male Cinnamon Bittern is, interestingly, more often seen than the female. To my experience, the female is usually more secretive and seldom come out to feed in the open unlike the male. During wet season, I usually see the males walking around in open rice fields looking for various types of food including amphibians, small fish and insects. The females, however, are mostly seen in grassy areas and mostly seen when flushed from dense cover.
At the time of writing this post (2 July 2021), I haven’t seen any fledged juvenile yet. Sightings of juveniles would normally peak in autumn, around September-October. Similar to the female, juvenile plumage is also quite variable. Some strongly marked individuals are often misidentified as the similar but much rarer Von Schrenck’s Bittern. The best way to identify these 2 similar species is by the colour of the primaries, i.e. rufous in Cinnamon Bittern and dark grey in Von Schrenck’s Bittern.