One of the rarest breeding birds in the UK, the elusive, well camouflaged Bittern can be found all year round in the reedbeds of the Norfolk Broads. Their characteristic booming calls can be heard from March until June.
Bitterns depend on reedbeds and it is the loss of large areas of wet freshwater reedbed that have contributed so much to the bittern’s decline as a breeding bird. Coastal and Broadland reedbeds in Norfolk are increasingly threatened by rising sea-levels with periodic inundation by saltwater reducing the populations of freshwater fish which bitterns feed on
Bitterns are brilliantly camouflaged with their warm brown plumage streaked with black markings making it difficult to spot them in their favoured reedbed habitat. During the breeding season you are more likely to hear the males distinctive booming call than to see one. Bitterns are a member of the heron family and have the long legs, long neck, dagger-like beak and broad rounded wings characteristic of the family. Their plumage is a mixture of browns and buffs with lots of dark brown and black streaks and bars giving it a mottled appearance. In flight the rounded wings curve downwards giving them an almost owl-like appearance.