Sunday, December 2, 2012

American Bittern

Eckert rates American Bitterns as uncommon throughout Minnesota, mostly in the west and western northeast. The bitterns I have seen or heard in the state have been in the Boundary Waters.  Bitterns are more common in eastern South Dakota, where I took this photograph. They also breed across the northern United States and southern Canada, where they inhabit wetlands with tall marsh vegetation. They are, therefore, often easier to hear than to see. They have trouble finding each other too, and locate each other with their unbird-like, loud, thunder-pumping calls (link courtesy of Thayer Birding Software).  Folk names for the species include "thunder-pumper” and “stake-driver” (Lowther et al. 2009). These authors comment, "because of this species’ secretive nature and inaccessible habitats, remarkably little is known about the basic aspects of its biology…” On the other hand, if surprised by observers, bitterns will occasionally freeze or play dead. American Bittern numbers are declining, mostly due to habitat degradation and destruction.

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