Credit: Sallie Gentry/USFWS
Have you ever seen one of these majestic birds in the wild? This heron-like wading bird is often difficult to see because of its amazing camouflaged coloring. It is a very secretive species that hides easily by crouching low to the ground with it's neck pulled inward. It has a stout body and neck, but with relatively short legs. Weighing about 1.5 lb, this medium sized bird has a wingspan that can reach 42'. Unlike other waterfowl, both the male and the female look alike and the juvenile is very similar to the adult.
The American Bittern is found all across the country but prefers habitats that include freshwater wetlands with tall emergent vegetation where they can hide. Although you may not see them, you would have no problem hearing them as Bitterns have a distinctive booming call that they use to communicate. These eerie calls have earned them many nicknames: stake-driver, thunder-pumper, and mire-drum.
The American Bittern has a remarkable, though rarely seen, courtship display. The male arches his back, shortens his neck, dips his breast forward, and 'booms' at the female. Both birds engage in complicated aerial displays.
If one was to be approached by a human, they prefer to freeze, not flush like other herons. If an observer is nearby, they will often stretch their neck up, bill pointed towards the sky, and sway from side to side as if imitating waving reeds.
April 18, 2014
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