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Bitterns are secretive, short-necked members of the Ardeidae family and belong to the order Pelecaniformes. The Ardeidae family has 64 species, out of which some are bitterns and some are herons. Herons have long legs and necks, whereas bitterns have a stout body and short neck. There are 14 bittern species that are related to herons and these are divided into two genera: Botaurus and Ixobrychus. They are carnivores that prey upon frogs, fish, crayfish, water scorpions, and small animals found in swamps and marshes. Bitterns occur almost all over the world and inhabit freshwater wetlands and reed beds of temperate areas. Males make booming calls in the spring season that can be heard over a long distance to attract a mate, whilst female bittern birds take on the responsibility of nesting duties.
They are solitary marsh birds who are dressed tastefully in a brown-colored plumage with dark streaks all over. Their plumage has a camouflage pattern which makes these birds hard to spot. You might be looking at one and not notice it until it blinks! Their appearance makes it very easy for them to escape predators. Additionally, they stand upright with their bill pointed upwards, and imitate the grasses and reeds of their habitat. They fly on bowed, rounded, and broad wings. They retract their necks during flight instead of stretching like other birds. Bitterns of the Botaurus genus are larger than those of the Ixobrychus genus. The Eurasian bittern, found from the British Isles to southeast Asia and South Africa, is the largest with a length of 30 in (75 cm). The American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), also known as the thunder pumper and stake driver, is slightly smaller in length than the Eurasian bittern. Keep reading to take your knowledge about bittern birds to a higher level!
Bitterns are birds that belong to the Ardeidae family and the Botaurinae subfamily. These birds are related to herons but they have a stouter body and a shorter neck when compared to herons. They are carnivores that prey upon frogs, fish, crayfish, water scorpions, marsh animals, and swamp animals. They are quite secretive birds and walk stealthily in shallow waters to hunt among vegetation.
All species of bitterns belong to the class Aves and the order Pelecaniformes.
The population of these birds is booming in Britain. Extinct in the UK in previous years, the numbers of these wetland birds have increased significantly. The population of American bitterns has significantly declined though, mainly due to a loss of their habitat. They are vulnerable due to their heavy dependence on marshes. Humans disturbances and chemical contamination have also reduced the quality of the habitat of American bitterns. There are three million adult American bittern birds in the world. The global population range of cinnamon bitterns is 130,000-2,000,000 birds.
The bittern species occurs mainly in temperate areas in wetlands, mostly in freshwater regions. It occurs across freshwater areas of Britain, Europe, Africa, and America. It can be seen frequently across vegetated wetlands, feeding at depths of 11.8 in (30 cm) in water. It depends upon the dense cover of sedges, rushes, water plants, and reeds to breed in and roost.
This bird is a waterbird that can be seen mostly at freshwater sites. It inhabits wetlands with large reedbeds and is active during dusk. It relies upon reed beds because these serve as nesting material. Some species of bitterns are migratory and will migrate towards the south for the winter season. When the American bittern feels threatened, it moves secretively or acts motionless in the tall marsh vegetation.
The bittern bird is a solitary and shy animal usually. It can be seen occasionally in flocks comprising five birds.
The life expectancy of this bird varies from species to species. Its life expectancy can range between four and 11 years.
They are usually polygamous birds, with five females mating with one adult male during the breeding season. Some species are known to be monogamous too. The female bittern takes up the responsibility of the nesting duties and assembles a mass of vegetation where she will lay between four and 10 eggs. The nest is usually built from reed stems. The nest will usually be constructed near the edge of the water. The incubation period can last for 25 days approximately. The eggs can be bluish, olive-brownish, or green. They hatch between March and July. The female looks after her young and takes care of their food needs. The young leave the nest at the age of 15-16 days and fledge at the age of 50-55 days.
Bitterns are listed on the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981's Schedule 1, which provides protection to them. It makes it illegal to kill, take, or injure these birds and it is even illegal if the damage is done to its eggs, young, or nest. It is also considered illegal to disturb these birds or their nests when their breeding season is going on. American bitterns are facing a loss of habitat and disturbances from human intervention are causing some species to be endangered. Human agricultural activities also harm their nest and the environment they inhabit. Water contamination is a serious threat to their well-being too. The conservation status of the majority of bittern species is Least Concern, with only the Australasian bittern being listed as Endangered.
The bittern bird is a stout heron that has buff-brownish feathers with dark-colored bars and streaks. Its pattern aids it in camouflaging excellently. It escapes predators by standing upright with its bill pointed upwards, mimicking grasses and reeds. It has a stouter body and a shorter neck when compared to herons and males and females are unlike in appearance. It has a buff-brown neck with a creamy-white throat and chin that also possess brown-colored streaks. Its cap is black in color. The underwing is of a mottled gray and light buff shade. The feet and legs are pale gray and the soles are yellow. Its bill is yellowish with a dark tip. The young look mostly just like adults, but their cap and mustache are paler.
Bitterns of the family Ardeidae look magnificent when in flight. They are shy animals though and do not prefer to be around people.
Males make booming calls in the spring season that can be heard over a long distance to attract a mate. These calls resemble the sound of a congested pump! The calls of males are very loud and help birdwatchers to become alert to the fact that bitterns are around. The call of the male comprises two to four notes and can be interpreted as 'up, up, up, rumb', to which the females respond with a 'wumph'. The American bittern call can be heard during its breeding season as it produces it to attract a mate. These calls are also produced by many American bitterns to assert dominance.
Bittern birds can range between 23-33 in (58-83 cm) in length. The Botaurus genus comprises bitterns of larger size, with Eurasian bitterns being the largest. The American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), commonly known as the thunder pumper and stake driver, is slightly smaller. The Ixobrychus genus comprises bitterns of a smaller size that range between 12-16 in (30-40 cm). The American bittern is as big as a kiwi bird!
The speed of the bittern bird is unknown currently. However, its beautiful underwing coverts can be seen during its flight.
The bittern bird ranges between 0.82-2.36 lb (370-1,072 g) in weight.
There are no particular names for a male and female bittern.
A baby bird of the bittern can be called a chick.
They consume fish, frogs, water scorpions, crayfish, and small animals found in swamps and marshes. A bittern walks stealthily in shallow waters to hunt among the marsh vegetation. It imitates reeds while standing in water while it hunts, just like herons. It is preyed upon by coyotes, great horned owls, and foxes. The American bittern is known to move secretively or act motionless in the tall marsh vegetation.
No, they are not dangerous to people.
No, they wouldn't make excellent pets as they require a specific habitat that cannot be replicated in a human house.
Bitterns are Britain's loudest birds!
There were only 11 male bitterns left in the UK in 1997. With continuous efforts for the conservation of this species, the number rose to 164 by 2017.
American bitterns are not rare, they are present in abundance. However, their population is declining at an alarming rate.
There are 14 bittern species that are related to the heron bird. These species are divided between two genera: Botaurus and Ixobrychus. The Ixobrychus genus comprises the little bittern, the Australian little bittern, the New Zealand little bittern, the cinnamon bittern, the stripe-backed bittern, the least bittern, the yellow bittern, Schrenck's bittern, the dwarf bittern, and the black bittern. The Botaurus genus comprises the American bittern, the Eurasian bittern, the South American bittern, and the Australasian bittern. As there are so many species, the bittern as a whole is not endemic to any one area.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our giant kingfisher surprising facts and red-footed booby fun facts pages!
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our bittern coloring pages!
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