Skip to main content

American Bittern

ID Info
Silhouette HeronsHerons
American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus
  • ORDER: Pelecaniformes
  • FAMILY: Ardeidae

Basic Description

You'll need sharp eyes to catch sight of an American Bittern. 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.

More ID Info
image of range map for American Bittern
Range map provided by Birds of the World
Explore Maps

Find This Bird

American Bitterns are secretive but fairly numerous. Scanning quiet, reedy marshes from the observation platforms and boardwalks of your local wildlife refuge or wetland park may turn them up. Use binoculars or a spotting scope to pan slowly and carefully along the edge between open water and reeds, and remind your eyes that they need to work overtime to see past the bittern's camouflage. If you're lucky, a patch of dry reeds will suddenly morph into a bittern standing stock still. If you visit during spring and listen out for their unmistakable, weird, pump-er-lunk call, you'll improve your chances considerably.

Other Names

  • Avetoro Lentiginoso (Spanish)
  • Butor d'Amérique (French)
  • Cool Facts