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What is an American Bittern?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
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  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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An American bittern is a type of heron. These birds can usually be identified by the brown and white vertical stripes going down the length of their necks and bodies. American bitterns also often have very short legs and distinctively thick bills. This type of bird may grow to a length of 35 inches (89 cm), with a wingspan of up to 50 inches (1.3 m). American bitterns are fairly lightweight birds, not usually exceeding 1 pound (0.5 kg) in weight.

The American bittern is native to North America and is considered a migratory bird. They tend to hover around the United States and Canada during the warm weather and usually head south toward the Caribbean when cold weather hits. In the wild, the American bittern is often spotted around marshy areas. They tend to prefer hiding behind large stalks of grass or reeds instead of being seen out in the open. The vertical stripes on the neck and body help the American bittern to blend in with tall grass.

In general, most American bitterns will eat whatever type of food they can find. They tend to eat a lot of fish and amphibians because of their tendency to live in marshy areas. It is also not uncommon to see an American bittern eating insects or small mammals such as mice or moles. These birds tend to be accomplished hunters, and their sharp, pointed bill may help them with effectively catching prey.

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Most of these birds build their nests on the ground rather than up inside tree cavities. The male and female birds typically have a monogamous relationship, and the male normally helps to defend the nest built by the female during incubation. Unlike many other types of birds, male American bitterns do not help help the female take care of the young birds. Incubation lasts for roughly three weeks. The young usually do not leave the nest for good until they are at least a few months old.

American bitterns normally live up to eight years in the wild. As of 2010, these birds are not an endangered species. Even though they are not spotted frequently, this is probably more a result of the secretive nature of the American bittern rather than a diminishing population. The number of wetlands in North America are gradually decreasing, and this may pose a threat to their numbers at some point in the future.

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