Australasian Bittern

Habitat: Wetland

Habitat

The Australasian Bittern frequents reedbeds and other areas, particularly those dominated by sedges, rushes, reeds or cutting grass. They are mainly found in freshwater environments but can also tolerate brackish estuaries (a combination of saltwater and freshwater), with lots of reeds and rushes. Australian ricefields provide an extensive area of habitat that is suitable for bitterns to live in, and as it is kept watered by irrigation, the conditions in ricefields are often more reliable than in natural wetlands.

Behaviour

The Australasian Bittern is a solitary bird that is seldom seen as it is highly camouflaged. When alarmed, they freeze, with their neck stretched up and the bill pointing skywards. Sometimes they even appear to sway in the breeze, in time with the surrounding reeds. This combination makes them blend in well with the surrounding vegetation. They are usually heard, rather than seen, with an eerie call or ‘boom’ that is said to resemble a ‘Bunyip’ (a mythical creature said to live in swamps and waterholes).

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 breeding season (October to February) 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. They lay 4 to 6 eggs.