Bittern - Botaurus stellaris


The most mimetic of the large marshland birds: because of its colouring and habit of remaining perfectly still with its neck and bill pointing upwards, it often manages to go unobserved.

The thick cane beds where it lives and its shy, crepuscular habits all contribute to making the Bittern one of the most difficult birds to see.

In compensation, the song of the male can be heard over a kilometre away in spring and is absolutely unmistakable because it sounds like the noise obtained by blowing hard into a glass storage jar.

Solitary throughout the year, unlike the majority of other herons, the Bittern only shows some affinity to the group it belongs to in flight, when it retracts its neck.

Over short distances it lets its legs dangle below and proceeds with a low, slow flight.

The cane beds or any formation of permanently flood marshland plants are the exclusive habitat of this species.

Its basic diet consists mostly of amphibians, fish and aquatic insects. Tuscany provides shelter for the most important Italian population (Lake Massaciuccoli Marshes), but the species is very localised in its nesting habits and only appears briefly and irregularly during migration and winter.

The Bittern is included as a threatened species in the Italian Red List for Nesting Birds.