Birds Living II by Richard Stade - RStade

American Bittern– Examing threats in"Bittern Stance"

Botaurus lentiginosus

February – Texas

L=28” ...... WS=26” ....... WT=7 oz Order: Ciconiiformes (Herons, Ibises, Storks, New World Vultures, Allies) Family: Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, Bitterns)

Stealth and camouflage are principal strategies of the American Bittern for hunting and avoiding danger, respectively. They will stand motionless in the weedy fringes of marshes for long periods waiting for prey. Their eyes point downward to aid them in spotting the prey. When frightened they enter what is termed the “bittern stance” stretching their neck and head skyward. This has two advantages – it makes spotting them difficult as their marking blend almost imperceptibly with the weedy areas they frequent and it positions their eyes to see forward and thus see their enemy. Because American Bitterns are very secretive and stay in inaccessible habitats little is known about their behavioral characteristics. But they do not go unnoticed as they make a loud, eerie booming sound that carries for miles. Thus, they are more frequently heard than seen.