American Bittern’s are elusive birds. When they are around they totally blend in with their surroundings. I just captured this photo this weekend while Jo, my wife, and I were visiting Wakodahatchee, a wetland park about 30 minutes north of our home in Palm Beach County, Florida. There were actually 2 Bitterns present but this one spent a few minutes in the open so I could get a couple fairly nice shots.
Since I started seeing these Bitterns a couple of years ago I’ve been able to spend some time actually watching their behavior for several hours at a time. This bird, even though shorter in height and having a shorter neck, acts a lot like an American Egret when it’s getting ready to attack food. They forage for food in marsh like water and when they see a tasty morsel they go into a “point” like a Retriever dog. They get excited about the food and their neck starts to wiggle. It’s funny to watch especially through binoculars or a telephoto lens. I can’t tell if it’s excitement or they are trying to hypnotize the Dragonfly, Lizard or insect. They strike at the food just like an Egret.
Once zoomed into the Bittern’s face a misguided Dragonfly zipped by. Mouth open, this Bittern grabbed the Dragonfly in mid-air. In a single chomp and one big gulp the Dragonfly disappeared, wings and all. Then the most amazing thing, the Bittern licked his beak, kind of like I do after good Bar-B-Que, and as if the Dragonfly was too salty, took a big drink and went back to hunting for another morsel.
This guy was only in the open for a few minutes so I grabbed as many pictures without Bulrushes and other hiding vegetation as I could.
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Above is a shot I took a couple of weeks ago in Green Cay in Palm Beach. Another Bittern yawning, yes they yawn.I yawn every time I look at this shot.
This Bittern rises from the vegetation. Really neat birds to see in the wild.
Finally, a fast take off. It’s too bad that this shot wasn’t more in focus. These birds have amazing wing colors hidden underneath those brown and white bodies.