Australasian Bittern

Did you know?

When disturbed, Australasian Bitterns disappear slowly into cover or blend into the surrounding reeds by keeping perfectly still with their neck and bill pointing skywards.

Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
66cm
Maximum Size: 
76cm
Average size: 
71cm
Average weight: 
1 100g
Breeding season: 
September to December
Clutch Size: 
Four to six eggs
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
197
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Australasian Bittern is a heavy-set, partially nocturnal heron with upperparts that are patterned dark brown, buff and black, and underparts that are streaked brown and buff. The eyebrow and throat are pale, and the side of the neck is dark brown. The bill is brown and the legs are greenish. The Australasian Bittern is also called the Australian Bittern or the Brown Bittern.

Similar species: 

The juvenile Nankeen Night Heron, Nycticorax caledonicus, is a similar shape and also has patterned upperparts but the colours are rufous-brown, and there is no dark streak on the side of the neck. It is also generally smaller, at up to 59 cm.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Australasian Bittern is found in coastal and sub-coastal areas of south-eastern and south-western mainlnand Australia, and the eastern marshes of Tasmania.

Habitat: 

The Australasian Bittern frequents reedbeds, and other vegetation in water such as cumbungi, lignum and sedges.

Seasonal movements: 

Australasian Bitterns are occasionally irruptive (suddenly occurring in great numbers) after heavy rains, but are mainly sedentary.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

Australasian Bitterns forage mainly at night on a wide range of small animals, including birds, mammals, fish, frogs, yabbies, snails, insects and spiders. LIke other herons, these birds use several techniques to capture prey, including: standing and waiting, slow stalking, and active pursuit. Wing and leg movements are used to confuse or attract prey items.

Breeding: 

The Australasian Bittern has a regular season but will also breed during inland flooding. The nest is a shallow structure of dry or green reeds, within a clump of reeds in water or a swamp and is built on a platform of bent-over reeds. Several females will nest within one male's territory.

Living with us

Drainage of swamps removes the habitat of Australasian Bitterns, but ricefields are also used by the species as habitat.

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