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American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus

American Bittern
Characteristics
Range
Habitat
Diet
Life Cycle
Behavior

 Classification

 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Ciconiiformes
 Family: Ardeidae
 Genus: Botaurus


American Bittern


ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern
    Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Robin Carter cc logo
  Characteristics

American BitternThe American bittern is a medium-sized wading bird that is 23-34 inches in length with a wingspan of three feet.

It is dark brown on its uppersides and its underparts are streaked with brown, tan and white. It has a pointed yellow bill, long legs and a black stripe on the side of its throat. Males and females look alike.

 

  Range
RangeThe American bittern breeds in wetlands across much of the United States and Canada from southeastern Alaska west to Newfoundland, Canada and south to California and South Carolina. It winters along the Pacific Coast, the Gulf Coast and the southern Atlantic Coast south the Mexico and the Caribbean.
  Habitat
American BitternThe American bittern is found in freshwater and brackish marshes and swamps. In the winter and during migration, it can be found in salt marshes. It prefers areas with thick clumps of tall plants like bulrushes, cattails, or sedges. While the American bittern is not listed as a federally endangered or threatened species, its population has decreased due to loss of habitat.

  Diet
American BitternThe American Bittern eats small fish, eels, small snakes, salamanders, insects, frogs, crayfish, and small mammals. It stands still in the water and waits for its prey. When it spots something, it quickly goes after it and catches it in its bill. It then swallows its catch whole!

 
  Life Cycle
American BitternThe American bittern mates in early May. The female chooses a nesting site and builds a platform nest of reeds, cattails, sedges and other plant matter near the water. She lays 2-6 eggs at a rate of one egg per day. The female incubates the eggs and cares for the young. The eggs hatch in 24-28 days and the chicks leave the nest when they are a week or two old. The female continues to care for them for another two or three weeks.

  Behavior
American BitternThe American bittern has a distinctive loud booming "unk-a-chunk, unk-a-chunk" call that sounds like a machine! In fact, the American bittern is more often heard than seen! The American bittern relies camouflage coloration to protect it from predators. It spends most of its time hidden in the reeds. When a threat approaches it either freezes in place or stretches its neck up towards the sky and sways back and forth. The stripes on its breast and belly look like reeds waving in the breeze and a predator may be fooled! If that doesn't work, call out with its loud, booming voice and flies away!





 


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