Habitat: The American bittern chooses freshwater lakes and ponds and sometimes brackish marshes for its habitat. Any wetland with some open water and aquatic vegetation like bulrushes, cattails and sedges is suitable.
Summer Range: The American bittern breeds in wetlands across Canada and the United States. It arrives in breeding grounds in March or April and the fall migration occurs from September through November.
Winter Range: It is a year-round resident of the Pacific Coast in the United States, but also winters in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Food: Bitterns will eat anything they can catch: frogs, snakes, crayfish, small fish, grasshoppers, water bugs, mollusks, dragonflies, and other small animals.
Breeding Behaviour: Mating rituals include repeated aerial displays. This species will hide when alarmed, tucking their feathers in, straightening their body, pointing their head up, and blending well with the surrounding reeds and grasses.
Nest Type and Egg Description: The female builds a flimsy nest of sticks, cattails, reeds or grasses on the ground surrounded by heavy vegetation. The clutch size is usually four to five eggs. The female incubates the eggs for 28 - 29 days, rearing one brood each year. The young are fed regurgitated food by both parents for about two weeks while they stay in the nest.
The American bittern is common through much of its range. However, loss of marsh habitat is resulting in population declines. The IUCN categorizes the American Bittern as a “species of least concern.”
Information on this page compiled by Jessie Blake.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/