Tuesday, February 6, 2018

American Bittern

While on a flat bottomed boat in the Okefenokee Swamp of Southern Georgia our guide pointed out a bittern on the side of the canal among the reeds. I couldn't see it. Then he maneuvered the boat over by the reeds and I still couldn't see it until it started to run. Then it stopped and I couldn't see it. Then it moved and I knew I was looking at it, but couldn't see it. The American bittern has amazing camouflage. 
It was not until getting home and looking at my photos that I could really see it. Now I look at the photos and think, why couldn't I see it?
When in its "concealment pose," with "neck stretched and bill pointed skyward," stripes on its neck mimicking the shape and color of the reeds, it is almost impossible to see. 
Despite the fact I've never seen one before, the American bittern is fairly common. They are a species of "least concern" and are found throughout much of the U.S. in appropriate habitat. They winter in Florida and along both the southern east and west coasts, and breed further north, going deep into Canada. 
It has a chestnut colored crown with with the center of those feathers black. The eyes are surrounded by yellow skin and the iris of the eye is pale yellow. The bill is yellowish green, with the upper bill darker than the lower bill. It has brown cheeks with a buff superciliary stripe (which runs from the base of the bill above the eye toward the back of the head) and a similar colored mustachial stripe. The chin is creamy white with with a chestnut central stripe. The feathers of the throat, breast and upper belly are buff and rust colored, outlined in black, giving a striped effect. It has a bluish/black elongated patch on the side of its neck. The hind neck is olive, the back (mantle) and scapulars (feathers that cover the wing at rest) are dark chestnut/brown, barred and speckled with black The legs and feet are yellowish/green. 

1 comment:

  1. Truly amazing camouflage. It's natural predators must have good eyes.