Archive for May 4th, 2011


As I was returning home, I spotted a large bird in a field near the house. My first thought was that it might be a Great Blue Heron, but when I stopped the car and took a better look, I could see that it was an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus). Normally found in the tall emergent vegetation of wetlands, bitterns are usually difficult to spot. They typically thrust their long beaks skyward, and with their streaked, cryptic colouration, blend in with their surroundings perfectly. This bird did tip his beak up, but as he was standing in a green field, he remained rather conspicuous.

American Bitterns are found across the province, with gaps in their distribution reflecting a lack of suitable breeding grounds in areas with extensive wetland drainage or degradation. Bitterns enjoy a variety of food items, including fish, small mammals, aquatic life and insects. They catch their prey by moving slowly, relying on stealth for success. In Ontario, the bittern nesting season peaks in the first half of June, so perhaps this individual is still searching for a mate.


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