American Bittern

American bittern. Botaurus lentiginosus

If you’re lucky, you will hear the weird watery boom calls in the spring of the American Bittern long before you see them. Check them out below…

American Bitterns are chunky, medium-sized, solitary birds belonging to the Heron family.

They look like the reeds they hide in because of their brown striped and mottled patterning and their ability to stay motionless among the reeds with their head tilted up.

Their eyes are yellow but turn orange during courtship, and they have short legs. 

  • Botaurus lentiginosus
  • Length: 23 in (58 cm) 
  • Weight: 25.6 oz (726 g)
  • Wingspan: 42 – 50 in (107 – 127 cm)


American Bitterns breed in Canada and northern US states before migrating to the Gulf Coast and Mexico.

Habitat And Diet

You can find American Bitterns almost exclusively in shallow, freshwater marshes and wetlands with tall reeds. 

Train your eyes on the edges of lakes and ponds amid the coarse vegetation to find them.

The diet of American Bitterns is fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals. They forage stealthily amongst the reeds, staying still and silent, waiting for their prey to come closer, and then dart forward quickly to capture them in their bills.

American Bittern Calls:

Listen to their strange watery boom calls. It is one of the weirdest bird calls.


Nests of American Bitterns can be found on the water, concealed among coarse vegetation. Females choose the nest site and build it themselves with available reeds, sedges, cattails, and other vegetation. 

They lay up to seven eggs which are incubated for around twenty-six days. The chicks, when hatched, are fed by the females through regurgitation directly into their beaks. In two weeks, they leave the nest and are fully-fledged in six to seven weeks. 

Fun Fact:

American Bitterns point upwards and sway gently from side to side, just like the reeds that hide them to conceal themselves.