FWS Focus


The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron of approximately 60-85cm in length. Adult plumage is brown with heavy white streaks. A distinguishing feature of this bird is a black streak that extends from the eye down the side of its neck. Males and females are similar in appearance, but males are slightly larger. Juveniles are distinguishable from adults by the lack of a black neck streak (Lowther et al. 2009).

Life History information provided for the American Bittern is summarized from the Birds of North America Online (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/).

References Cited in Species Profile

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online:http://www.aou.org/
  • Byers, E. 1951. Feeding behavior of young American Bitterns. Wilson Bull. 63:334-336.
  • Caffey, R.H. and M. Schexnayder. 2003. "Coastal Louisiana and South Florida: A Comparative Wetland Inventory," Interpretive Topic Series on Coastal Wetland Restoration in Louisiana, Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (eds.), National Sea Grant Library. 8 pp.http://lacoast.gov/new/Data/Reports/ITS/Florida.pdf
  • Duebbert, H. F. and J. T. Lokemoen. 1977. Upland nesting of American Bitterns, Marsh Hawks, and Short-eared Owls. Prairie Nat. 9:33-39.
  • Gabrielson, I. N. 1914. Ten days' bird study in a Nebraska swamp. Wilson Bull. 87:51-68.
  • Gibbs, J. P., J. R. Longcore, D. G. McAuley, and J. K. Ringelman. 1991. Use of wetland habitats by selected nongame waterbirds in Maine. U.S. Fish and Wildl. Serv., Fish Wildl. Res. 9.
  • Graber, J. W., R. R. Graber, and E. L. Kirk. 1978. Illinois Birds: Ciconiiformes. Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv. Biol. Notes 109.
  • Lowther, Peter, Alan F. Poole, J. P. Gibbs, S. Melvin and F. A. Reid. 2009. American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/018
  • Palmer, R. S. 1962. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 1. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.
  • Rehm, E. M. and G. A. Baldassarre. 2007b. The influence of interspersion on marsh bird abundance in New York. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119(4):648-654.
  • Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds, an analysis of Christmas Bird Count data. Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Scientific Name

Botaurus lentiginosus
Common Name
American Bittern
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



Launch Interactive Map


Explore the information available for this taxon's timeline. You can select an event on the timeline to view more information, or cycle through the content available in the carousel below.

1 Items