American Bittern

The American Bitterns are medium-sized herons with thick, compact bodies. They are a brown and white streaked bird with a black patch extending from the eye to the neck and yellow legs. Juveniles have not yet developed neck streaking.
SCIENTIFIC NAME
Botaurus lentiginosus
CLASSIFICATION
Bird
LIFE SPAN
4-8 Years
SIZE
23.5-33.5 ” | 0.8-1.1 lbs
STATE CONSERVATION STATUS
  • Priority Species
FEDERAL CONSERVATION STATUS
Least Concern
GAME STATUS
Non-Game
GAME TYPE
None
  1. Washoe
  2. Humboldt
  3. Pershing
  4. Churchill
  5. Mineral
  6. Lyon
  7. Douglas
  8. Carson City
  9. Storey
  1. Elko
  2. Lander
  3. Eureka
  4. White Pine
  1. Esmeralda
  2. Nye
  3. Lincoln
  4. Clark

Habitat & Range

American Bitterns can be found in all sizes of wetland in their range. Typically, they prefer wetlands with high vegetation and aquatic plants. During the winter, they avoid frozen over marshes.

  • Agricultural Lands
  • Marsh

Threats

  • Habitat Degradation

Natural History

American Bitterns eat insects, amphibians, crayfish, small fish, and small mammals. Overall their diet is very general and they are not picky. They are known to consume their prey head first after it has been shaken vigorously. Bitterns will choose tall cattail thickets for a preferable nest site, but will sometimes nest in grassland areas with tall bushes when suitable nesting habitat is less available. They are asocial migratory birds that head south during winter and north during the breeding season. When alarmed, they will stay in place with their beaks pointed straight up to blend in with its habitat.

Fun Facts

The American Bittern's yellow eyes can focus downward, this presumably enhances the bird's ability to spot and capture prey. The eyes turn orange during breeding season.