American Bittern is rarely seen stalking prey in reedy marshes. The medium size heron is filmed in typical habitat as it easily blends in with marsh grasses. This is my first clear capture of this elusive bird.
This streaky, brown and buff heron can materialize among the reeds, and disappear as quickly, especially when striking a concealment pose with neck stretched and bill pointed skyward. These stealthy carnivores stand motionless amid tall marsh vegetation, or patiently stalk fish, frogs, and insects. They are at their most noticeable in spring, when the marshes resound with their odd booming calls that sounds like the gulps of a thirsty giant.
Size & Shape
American Bitterns are medium-sized herons with thick, compact bodies. They have shorter legs and thicker necks than typical herons and a slightly hunched posture. The daggerlike bill is long, straight, and sharply pointed. The wings are broad but the wingtips are somewhat pointed.
American Bitterns are mostly warm brown, buff, and white. They are strongly streaked, especially on the neck, and they can be very hard to see against marsh vegetation. In flight the dark outer wings contrast sharply with the brown of the rest of the bird.
Bitterns are stealth predators and typically stand motionless as they wait for prey to approach, or stalk it with barely perceptible motions. They adopt a classic pose when alarmed, with the beak pointing straight up, helping this streaky bird blend in with its reedy background. They tend to forage alone.
Look for American Bitterns in shallow freshwater marshes, typically toward the margins and among reeds and other vegetation; they are rarely out in the open.
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