South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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American Bittern

Botaurus lentiginosus

Length: 26 inches Wingspan: 45 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Brown overall with white streaks on underparts, long black neck stripe, chunky sppearance

American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosusThe American Bittern is more often heard than seen, with its loud booming cry heard for long distances late in the evening and at night.  They inhabit large, vegetated wetland areas, usually slipping through the vegetation unseen.  If startled, it will stand motionless with its head pointed upward, using its striped underparts to blend into the vegetation.

Habitat: Marshes and sloughs, lakes with emergent wetland vegetation around its shoreline.  

Diet: Fish, aquatic insects, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, crustaceans, small rodents, and small snakes and lizards

Behavior: Will feed at any time of day or night.  When feeding, they often stand motionless, blending in the vegetation and waiting for prey to approach, and then spearing it with a quick jab of their bill.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Very unusual, booming ooomm-a-lunk that carries for long distances.

Migration: Summers throughout much of the U.S. and southern Canada.  Winters near U.S. coasts, the extreme southern U.S., Mexico, and Central America.

Similar Species: Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Status: Has declined in parts of its range due to habitat loss, especially in the southern end of its breeding range.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, American Bittern

2) American Bittern

3) American Bittern

Photo Information: May 2nd, 2006 -- Near Tea in Lincoln County -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution American Bittern photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
 American Bittern - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon summer resident and breeder in most of the state