Mystery Bird: Least Bittern, Ixobrychus exilis

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[Mystery birds] Least Bittern, Ixobrychus exilis, photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 31 July 2007 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/320s f/8.0 at 500.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

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Okay, an expat clue: If you want the genus, you'll have to do to a busy rich ox what Victoria Tennant's character did to how daddy is doing. For the specific epithet, I'm reminded of the name of the character played by Laurence Fishburne in my favorite Coppolla movie, and (more directly) of Fishburne's character's description of the movie's central figure.

Sorry John, your clues have baffled me agian. I thought it was the smallest one to be banished, if that's where you are heading.

With the long and streaked neck and the brown overall color I'm guessing American bittern.

Heh. Sorry, Adrian. I'm trying to see how obscure I have to get in order to stump David. Still iterating. :-)

I think we agree as to the bird. Oh, and I misspelled "Coppola" in my earlier clue.

Sorry, guys, but an American Bittern would show much clearer, darker stripes and a strong dark moustache stripe.

Hm. I didn't think we were talking about an American Bittern. Unless I'm confused in thinking that Adrian and I are thinking of the same bird, that means there's only one guy who's opined that that's what it is.

Sorry, John. I didn't parse you're post quite right. JPS put in American Bittern, and I saw you're "I think we agree as to the bird" in the next post. And I have to admit your clues were a bit beyond me. (As I sometimes tell my students, if it doesn't have feathers, I don't see it)

OK John, trouble in paradise caused me to be somewhat late getting to this today...

a little nod to LA Story there, I think- I'm sure the others will get it if they can unscramble "how daddy is doing" or even a "busy rich ox"!

But I don't think I need to take either the blue pill or the red one to have the "least" doubt about the species to which you refer...

you may be surprised to know that your "ox" is actually connected to the common name taxonomically, especially if you glare menacingly at the hunter Orion!

By David Hilmy (not verified) on 05 Mar 2010 #permalink

Oh David, if Adrian and psweet are troubled, I am struggling to stay afloat! Another constellation reference, right? But I haven't the slightest clue about the cows or the pills!

Well, gosh, I'm late to the game here. I'm thinking maybe a least bittern.

It has a non-distinctly stripy buff/orange neck, a slightly darker crown on its head. Yellow legs.

I'm guessing a juvenile, or perhaps a female from an angle where we're not seeing the back as clearly? In Sibley, the adults seem to have a much more distinctly dark crown, and darker back, with males looking more distinctly darker.

I'm 400 years behind in my reading, so I totally am not getting the film references.


I dare not again incur Grrl's wrath by giving away too much too soon, but suffice it to say that John's first clue is an anagram for the genus and his favorite Coppola movie may involve betta fighting fish, but small "midgit" ones at that, which would point to species...

the red and blue pills were really just a nod to Fishburne in The Matrix and not really a part of the riddle but if you can in fact determine the constellation glaring at Orion, you will be half of a portmanteau away from the common name!

By David Hilmy (not verified) on 05 Mar 2010 #permalink

Bardiac let me off the hook!

John's "busy rich ox" was an anagram for the genus Ixobrychus and Laurence Fishburne played a character called "Midgit" in Coppola's movie Rumble Fish, the title of which actually refers to bettas or Siamese fighting fish, and the species name exilis actually means "small" (Adrian's "smallest one to be banished")...

so it is indeed a Least Bittern (and I would agree that this is a juvenile based upon the lack of real contrast between crown and face and the very fine black streaks on the neck- you will need to enlarge the photo to see clearly)...

the word "bittern" is supposedly a blend of the two Latin words butio ("buzzard") and taurus ("bull") which refers to it's booming voice... Taurus is the constellation that faces Orion...

of the three subspecies, this is probably the nominate Ixobrychus exilis exilis (pullus is confined to north-western Mexico, and erythromelas from eastern Panama south to Brazil and Paraguay)

By David Hilmy (not verified) on 05 Mar 2010 #permalink

Way to go, David. I thought maybe I'd throw you off with Rumble Fish, since the favorite Fishburne/Coppola movie most people would think of would probably be Apocalypse Now. But yeah, it was Fishburne's role as Midget that I was referencing (though I didn't know the character's name until I checked IMDB to confirm). The main thing that made me think of him was the scene where he says Mickey Rourke's Motorcycle Boy is like "royalty in exile."

I love that movie. My son is 12; I think he's probably ready for some father/son bonding over borderline-age-inappropriate cinema.

Recycled organic pig products on a stick. Mustard extra.

By CMOT Dibbler (not verified) on 05 Mar 2010 #permalink

Grrl, I think there is a need for a new post of "Mystery Clue of the Day".