©Jamie Hall


Scientific name: Botaurus stellaris
The shy and retiring bittern is a master of blending in and can be very difficult to spot in its reedbed home. It does sound like a booming foghorn, however, when it calls, so can often be heard if it cannot be seen.

Species information


Length: 70-80cm
Wingspan: 1.3m
Weight: 1-1.5kg
Average lifespan: max. 11 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December


A rare and shy heron, the bittern spends almost all its time hidden away in large reedbeds, where it feeds on eels and other fish. It is has wonderfully camouflaged plumage, helping it to blend into the reeds. It can also stand motionless for long periods to avoid detection.

How to identify

The bittern is very well camouflaged, with pale brown plumage, streaked with beige and black markings.


A shy, rare bird found in large reedbeds, especially in East Anglia, Kent, South Wales and North West England.

Did you know?

During the breeding season, the male bittern 'booms', making a deep, foghorn-like sound which can be heard up to two miles away, mostly at night. Males will mate with up to five females each season, who will each produce four or five eggs in March or April.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with planners, developers and farmers to ensure our reedbeds are protected. Additionally, careful habitat management carried out by The Wildlife Trusts on local nature reserves where bitterns live helps them to survive. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.