American Bittern: Botaurus lentiginosus
We can see its effective use of camouflage. The bittern, a
species of heron, spends its life among tall, aquatic vegetation
like cattails or sawgrass, in freshwater and saltwater marshes or
at the borders of lakes. It stands over two feet tall. Its color -
a buffy brown back, creamy underparts with brown flecking, greenish
legs - allows it to blend with the surroundings, as does its
behavior. To remain concealed when alarmed, the bird freezes with
its head pointed skyward, resembling reeds. If wind stirs the
vegetation, the bittern may also sway its head.
Since the bittern is a winter visitor to Florida, we rarely hear
its weird vocalizations, mostly made during the spring and
They occur throughout Florida November through April, mostly in
freshwater juncus marshes, before returning to the northern U.S.
and southern Canada to breed. Their numbers have been declining
over the past three decades at an average rate of 2.4 percent per
year, mostly due to loss of wetlands.
To see an American bittern, then, is luck indeed.
Sun-gazer, the American bittern is called, as well as Stake
Driver, Thunder Pump and Mire Drum. The names refer to the
bittern's call, a deep resonant oonk-a-lunk, which has been likened
to the bellowing of a bull or a hydraulic machine. It's odd that a
bird this secretive makes such a racket.