Belongs to: herons & crakes

Bittern Botaurus stellaris

BoCC Amber list

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Large brown secretive heron of dense reedbeds

Uncommon breeding bird in E. Anglia now increasing as a result of conservation action

In Essex, a winter visitor to large reedbeds such as in the Lea and Ingrebourne Valleys


Heavily camouflaged with brown and buff streaks; large dagger-like bill; greenish-yellow legs; 75 cm

Wades in reedbeds, eating fish and amphibians; flies with head tucked in and legs trailing

In the breeding season, makes a characteristic booming sound like a distant foghorn that carries long distances


Nest is a platform of reeds and twigs on ground amongst reedbed

1 sometimes 2 broods, April–May; 3–4 pale greenish-blue eggs

In winter spreads out from its breeding grounds into smaller reedbeds, including to the Lea Valley

© Leslie Borg