American Bittern

American Bittern
(Botaurus lentiginosus)

Order:  Pelecaniformes
Family:  Ardeidae

Photo courtesy of FHWA

American Bittern Information

Length:  23 - 32"

Habitat:  Freshwater marshes, saltwater marshes, marshy shores of lakes; other large, shallow wetland areas with tall vegetation such as cattails and reeds. Sometimes nests in wet meadows, wet grassy fields, or drier fields near water.

Diet:  Small fish, frogs, crayfish, salamanders, small snakes, insects; occasionally, small mammals such as voles.

  Calls of the American Bittern

Additional Information

American Bittern
Photo, description, habitat, behavior, diet, nesting, migration status, and conservation status. Includes range map and song. (From BirdWeb)

American Bittern

American Bittern

© Mike Danzenbaker

American Bittern
Identification Tips

  • Medium-sized wading bird
  • Dark brown upperparts
  • Underparts streaked brown and white
  • Black malar streak
  • Yellow bill with dark culmen
  • Black primaries and secondaries
  • Sometimes "freezes" with neck held upwards
  • Immatures similar to adults but lack the malar streak

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Breeding Bird Survey Map,

American Bittern Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Range in New England

The American Bittern breeds throughout New England.

These birds winter in the southern United States, Bermuda, some areas of the Greater Antilles, and Mexico. Historically, there have been winter sightings as far south as Panama.

Year-round Map from eBird

Year-round sightings of the American Bittern (1900-present)

Christmas Bird Count Map
Historical CBC Map from USGS