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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.


The American bittern inhabits freshwater marshes and the edges of lakes and ponds with tall aquatic vegetation, such as cattails or maidencane. They build nests on the ground or on slightly raised platforms of thick vegetation.


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.