Male Bittern

Bittern

Scientific name: Botaurus stellaris

Did you know: Fewer than 100 breeding pairs of Bitterns were left in the UK in the 1990s, making every sighting a rare treat!

What Do Bitterns Look Like? (how to identify them)

Bitterns are medium-sized, stocky birds, well-camouflaged with pale, buff-brown plumage patterned with dark streaks and bars. These elusive birds possess long, sturdy legs and a sharp, pointed beak. 

Their feathers, dense and waterproof, are ideally adapted for the wetlands, blending seamlessly with reeds and rushes. This master of disguise is a marvel of nature, often remaining unseen until its profound booming call betrays its presence.

Differences Between Male And Female Bitterns

Male and female Bitterns are similar in appearance, but males can be distinguished during the breeding season by their extraordinary vocal performance. They are also slightly larger and have more pronounced markings than their female counterparts.

What Do Bitterns Eat?

Primarily hunters of fish, Bitterns skilfully navigate their reedbed habitats to also capture amphibians, insects, and small mammals. 

They hunt primarily at twilight, using their exceptional vision and stealth to approach and swiftly capture prey with a rapid thrust of their sharp beak.

Where Do Bitterns Live? (including migration info)

Bitterns are residents of dense reedbeds, mainly found in East Anglia, Kent, South Wales, and North West England. 

While they are predominantly sedentary in the UK, some Bitterns migrate to the UK in winter from the colder regions of Europe, swelling local populations during this period.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Bitterns)

The Bittern’s call is its hallmark — a deep, booming sound reminiscent of a distant foghorn, used by males to attract mates and declare their territory. This powerful vocalisation, audible up to two miles away, occurs mostly at night during the breeding season from late April to early June.

Fun Bittern Facts (kid-friendly)

  • Bitterns can remain motionless for hours to avoid detection.
  • Their booming call can be heard up to two miles away!
  • A male Bittern may mate with up to five females in one season.
  • They fly with retracted necks, unlike cranes or storks.
  • Despite their size, Bitterns can be almost invisible in their natural habitat.

Facts About The Bittern

Diet: They eat mainly fish but also eat amphibians and insects.
Bird Family: Herons, storks and ibises
Length: 68 - 82cm
Wingspan: 99 - 130cm
Weight: 0.8 - 2 kg
Scientific Name: Botaurus stellaris

The Bittern Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

Bittern Images

Male Bittern Male
Female Bittern Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile