A Great Bittern stalking in the snow


Bitterns are shy, secretive and more likely to be heard than seen. With their subtle brown plumage, this plump heron-like bird blends almost perfectly into its reed bed habitat. Even when frightened, the bittern stands perfectly still pointing its neck and bill skywards, to look just like a reed stalk. It is the male's remarkably loud and booming mating call, which can be heard over two kilometres away, that announces their presence. Though found in Europe, North Africa and central Asia, there is only a handful of breeding pairs in Britain that have re-colonised after becoming extinct late in the 19th century.

Scientific name: Botaurus stellaris

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Eurasian bittern,
  • Great bittern

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Map showing the distribution of the Bittern taxa

Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The Bittern can be found in a number of locations including: Asia, China, Europe, Mediterranean, Russia, United Kingdom, Wales. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Bittern distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Year assessed: 2009

Classified by: IUCN 3.1


BBC News about Bittern