Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!
Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.
A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.
Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
The American Bittern is a solitary, cryptically colored heron that breeds in freshwater wetlands from the mid-United States to northern Canada. It prefers wetlands dominated by tall, emergent vegetation, and within these habitats frequents vegetation fringes and shorelines. It relies on stealth more than pursuit to forage, waiting motionless for long periods to capture passing prey—mainly insects, amphibians, crayfish, and small fish and mammals. It is most active during crepuscular hours.
This bittern uses resounding calls to communicate within the thick vegetation that dominates its nesting habitats. These calls have an eerie, ventriloquistic quality, and many vernacular names for this species, including “stake-driver,” “thunder-pumper,” and “mire-drum,” alludes to these calls. Males use elaborate displays to court females but participate little in rearing the young. Females build nests; incubate eggs, and feed and brood chicks.
Because of this species’ secretive nature and inaccessible habitats, remarkably little is known about basic aspects of its biology, including sources of mortality, habitat use, mating systems, and population structure. Basic research on its natural history would help to conserve the species, which is undergoing substantial declines over much of the U.S. owing largely to loss and degradation of wetland habitats.
Lowther, Peter, Alan F. Poole, J. P. Gibbs, S. Melvin and F. A. Reid. 2009. American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/018