Species profile

Name: bitterns are a group of 14 species of bird in the heron family. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more secretive than other members of the family. There are two types of bitterns, the larger and stockier true bitterns, and the smaller and more slender least bitterns. In the UK and Europe, ‘bittern’ usually refers to the Eurasian or great bittern (Botaurus stellaris).

Appearance: bitterns have brown-and-black, striped feathers which help them to camouflage in their reed bed habitats.

Size: the least bittern is the smallest species, measuring around 30 cm long, with a wingspan of  45 m and a weight of up to 100 grams. Eurasian bitterns are the largest, measuring around 75 cm, with a wingspan of 115 cm and a weight of up to 2 kg.

Diet: they mostly eat fish as well as aquatic invertebrates, snakes, frogs, baby birds, and small mammals. When hunting, bitterns slowly stalk their prey, quickly spearing it with a rapid thrust of their beaks.

Did you know: bitterns are secretive birds that largely stay hidden in the reed beds. When a  predator comes near they hide themselves by extending their necks and bills and waving their bodies sinuously to copy the movement of the reeds around them. They are most easily found in Spring when the males emit a loud booming mating call. These booming calls can be heard up to five kilometres away!

Location: they can be found in reed beds and marshy areas worldwide, except for Antarctica.

Where to see bitterns

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see bitterns in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
London Wetland Centre
very low
very good

Photo credit: KenkvanDorp under a Create Commons licence from Pixabay

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