American Bittern

(Botaurus lentiginosus)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

American Bittern


N4B, N4N - Apparently Secure Breeding and Nonbreeding

S4B - Apparently Secure Breeding


not listed


Uncommon migrant, rare breeder


Marshes and wetlands with dense, tall, emergent vegetation


23 to 27 in length

42 wingspan

      Photo by Christa Rittberg

There is bold brown streaking on the neck and chest, and dark streaks from the bill to the shoulders.


American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)








April to May and August to November


Bitterns, egrets, and herons (family Ardeidae) were formerly classified under the order Ciconiiformes. Based on a phylogenomic study published in 2008, the family was transferred to the order Pelecaniformes.



Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises, and allies)



Ardeidae (bitterns, egrets, herons)



Botaurinae (bitterns)












Visitor Photos
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Christa Rittberg

Observed just outside of George H. Crosby Manitou State Park.

  American Bittern    Photos




  Voices: American Bittern

Uploaded on Apr 15, 2010

Experience the song of an American Bittern emanating from a cattail marsh in spring, as narrated by the Cornell Lab's Laura Erickson. Learn more about American Bitterns at All About Birds:

Audio recordings by Steve Pantle. Photographs by Gerrit Vyn and Marie Read. To explore more audio recordings visit the Macaulay Library:

  American Bittern
JMC Nature Photos
  American Bittern  
  "American Bittern" "Botaurus lentiginosus"
John Adams
  "American Bittern" "Botaurus lentiginosus"  
  American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus
Jean-François Hic
  American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus  



Visitor Videos
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Other Videos
  American Bittern Displaying in Maine
WIld Bird Video Productions

Published on Jun 22, 2012

I found this American bittern in a hay field about a mile from home. Luckily he was on the edge of the field "pumper lunking" and offered up some great opportunities. He was often to close! It's best to listen to the video with headphones or with a system that has a sub woofer in order to hear the full range of sound. © 2012 Garth McElroy.

  American Bittern Mating Call
Dennis Davenport

Published on Jun 8, 2012

Here's an American Bittern performing his mating call. I really need to pick up a decent microphone to deal with the wind. Taken at Ridgefield NWR on Apr. 23, 2012 with my Canon 7D.

  American Bittern Eating Wood Frogs
Mark Paul

Published on Aug 8, 2012

Watch an American Bittern eat Wood Frogs

  The American Bittern

Uploaded on Jan 22, 2012

Of all the birds I have admired over the years, I must admit that the American Bittern is by far the most interesting. I had only seen them a few times in the wild and as luck would have it I could never catch them on film until now. I am simply fascinated by this bird, everything from its unusual plunger like call to the way it mimics the windy marsh grass has made it one of my favorites for years. I have paddled right between them while I could hear them singing from only a few feet away and yet still without being able to capture a glance of these amazingly stealthy marsh birds. The American Bittern needs our help because the wetlands it calls home are becoming more rare every year. Its up to each one of us to do our own part in our own community to help preserve the natural world. There really is a future in a clean and healthy Earth so I hope you can join me in helping protect our Mother Earth and all its wonders. I hope you enjoy and share this film with as many as you can to keep spreading the conservation message. Until next time, you can join me at my website and thanks to the support of my friends we now have a new group helping to raise wildlife awareness called the Nature Walks Conservations Society

  American Bittern 2013 Video file

Published on Jun 5, 2013

Footage of an american Bittern doing its onk-a-chonk call. Filmed May 18, 2013, Straight River Marsh Scrape, Steele County, Owatonna, Minnesota. Filming by Leanne T. Alt, TheTthird Hand, Inc. Video Productions, Owatonna, Minnesota. Copyright 201, The Third Hand, Inc. All Rights Reserved.




Visitor Sightings
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Kristy Fletcher 

Location: Frazee (Becker County) MN

I did not see the bird itself. I heard its call in the swamp in front of our house on two separate occasions within a week. Will continue to watch and listen for it.

Christa Rittberg

Location: Lake County, MN

Observed just outside of George H. Crosby Manitou State Park.

American Bittern






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