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Ixobrychus exilis migrates between temperate breeding grounds and temperate and subtropical wintering grounds. Migrants leave breeding grounds late August through September; few birds found north of Gulf States past mid-October. They return early April to late May, depending on latitude. They usually clamber through dense vegetation. Often moving deliberately from stalk to stalk, grasping vegetation with their toes, but they can run quickly, hop nimbly, and burrow rodentlike through vegetation. They seemingly fly weakly; flutter short distances when flushed, legs dangling, and drop quickly back into vegetation. (Gibbs et al. 1992).
Least Bitterns are quite vocal, with a varied repertoire of calls. Males utter a dovelike cooing, frequently heard in spring, which is thought to advertise their presence. Females reported to respond with ticking calls (Hancock and Kushlan 1984, in Gibbs et al. 1992). A gack-gack call commonly given from nest (Weller 1961, in Gibbs et al. 1992). When alarmed, a loud, shrieking quoh, a hissing hah, a tut-tut-tut, or a cackle may be expressed (Palmer 1962, Hancock and Kushlan 1984, Swift et al. 1988, in Gibbs et al 1992). Ank-ank call given when flushed from marsh (Weller 1961, in Gibbs et al. 1992). Defensive posture and interactions between mates may be accompanied by a call of gra-a-a (Weller 1961, in Gibbs et al. 1992). They are vocal in early morning, and perhaps more vocal at dawn than dusk (Swift et al. 1988, in Gibbs et al. 1992), but they are generally silent at midday and in the afternoon.
They generally consume small fish, and insects.