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February 2018 Bird of the Month – American Bittern

American Bittern 2 (c) 2006 Paul Thomas. All rights reserved. Dec 15, American Bittern digesting Yellow-bellied Water Snake at Loxahatchee NWR, Boynton Beach, West PBC, Fl

February’s Bird of the Month is the American Bittern, and here is the article in the upcoming February 2018 Kite written by Clive Pinnock.

February Bird of the Month – American Bittern

The Houdini of the heron family, the American Bittern is quite adept at doing the “Now you see me, now you don’t” act. This medium to large heron has a thick compact body of warm brown, buff and white feathers. Their heavily streaked neck and dagger-like straight and sharply pointed bill make them barely perceptible in marsh vegetation. Their short legs and slightly hunched posture also add to their unique camouflage or cryptic repertoire. Their eyes, which are usually yellow throughout most of the year, turn orange during the breeding season.

The primary hunting strategy of these birds is stealth as they patiently stalk their quarry of fish, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, mammals and insects. When alarmed, they stand with their bills pointed straight up which, with their streaky neck plumage, helps to break up their outline against the reeds and sedges of the marsh. They typically inhabit dense freshwater marshes, often hunting along the edges, and are rarely seen in the open. They are mostly noticeable during the spring due to their odd booming calls, which sometimes sound like “gulps of a thirsty giant.” These calls are often heard at dusk and dawn.

We have both migratory and resident American Bitterns in Florida. Those that you see and hear during our spring and summer are year-round residents, since birds from the northern states migrate during the fall to escape the oncoming freezing temperatures of winter and will have already been returning north in the spring. Wintering birds, although typically found in freshwater and sometimes brackish water marshes, may also forage in dry grasslands and other terrestrial habitats.

Photographer’s please note: Next month’s BOM is the Least Bittern.

Please check out the picture by Paul Thomas in the February KITE cover and to see the slide show of the entire virtual gallery this month, along with photographer etc  — click on BOM SLIDE SHOW below the pictures displayed here:

Febrary 2018 Bird of the Month – American Bittern