0f876500 cf35 460d 8e30 aaa5707679e2

Description of the American Bittern

BREEDING MALE

The American Bittern is a secretive marsh bird, mostly brown with a long, boldly streaked neck, greenish legs, and a long greenish-yellow, pointed bill. It has a black malar stripe and dark flight feathers.

american bittern

American Bittern display 600 gl
Display posture.  Photograph © Greg Lavaty

American Bittern flight 600 gl
Photograph © Greg Lavaty

 

American Bittern swimming 600 gl

 American Bitterns are not often seen swimming but they do sometimes show up in unusual locations during migration.
Photograph © Greg Lavaty

Female

Same as male.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Juveniles resemble adults.

Habitat

American Bitterns inhabit wetlands and marshes with much emergent vegetation.

Diet

American Bitterns eat fish, but also many other aquatic animals.

Behavior

The American Bittern forages by waiting patiently or walking very slowly and capturing prey with a quick thrust of its bill.

When threatened, it points its neck and bill straight up, using its striped neck to camouflage it within the reeds.

Range

American Bitterns breed from southern Canada as far south as the central U.S. states. Their population appears to be decreasing.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the American Bittern.

Fun Facts

American Bitterns have been observed capturing flying dragonflies.

Young American Bitterns are fed by the female, who regurgitates partially digested prey.

Vocalizations

American Bitterns produce a very distinctive, booming, "Ooonk-aloonk."

Nesting

The nest is a platform of reeds and grasses placed in emergent vegetation or on the ground near water.

Number: 3-5 eggs.

Color: brown or olive-brown in color.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 24-28 days. Young leave the nest after 1-2 weeks, but are tended for several more weeks.