Surveys and bird counts

Bittern Survey

  • Date Thursday, 1 September 2022 - Saturday, 31 December 2022
  • Locations Wetlands across south-eastern Australia, South-western corner of Western Australia
Register to take part in the survey

Uncover the secrets of the Australasian Bittern

After the number of reports of Australasian Bitterns declined in recent years, BirdLife Australia recognised that the population of the species was declining, so we initiated the Bittern surveys to gain an accurate picture of their distribution and numbers. This vital work saw the species officially classified as endangered. Ongoing surveys will assist us to monitor their population trends and learn more about their ecology.

We’re looking for both Australasian and Australian Little Bitterns across south-eastern Australia and south-western parts of Western Australia this spring and summer.

We encourage observers to check their local wetlands for bitterns. Due to their camouflaged plumage, cryptic behaviour and skulking nature, bitterns are often difficult to detect among the reeds, so to maximise the chances of finding one, we recommend two different types of surveys: listening surveys and wetland walks.

Where can I take part in this survey?

Australasian Bitterns occur in wetlands across south-eastern Australia and in the south-western corner of Western Australia.

If there is a wetland near you that you think might be a suitable hiding place for bitterns, please contact us and we’ll provide you with information about how you can conduct a Bittern survey.

Every Bittern survey adds to our knowledge

We’re asking for people to undertake two different kinds of Bittern surveys so that we can learn more about Australian Little and Australasian Bitterns.

Both types of surveys are simple to do, and we can provide guidance for anyone who wants to get involved.

Listening surveys

The best way to find a bittern is to listen for their booming calls during the breeding season. Male bitterns have a distinct, low booming call likened to a foghorn that they repeat several times in succession, calling most frequently at dawn and dusk during the spring summer.


The number of calling birds and their locations within the wetland should be recorded. At some sites where there are numerous birds calling, more intensive techniques may be required to accurately access how many there are.

We’re recruiting listeners for this up-coming booming season to help identify bittern habitat across their range. Volunteers will be trained in listening survey techniques and deployed to a local wetland.

Go to our bird profiles to listen to the calls of the Australasian Bittern and the Australian Little Bittern.

Wetland walks

We suspect that many Australasian Bitterns do not breed when conditions are unsuitable. Non-breeding birds appear not to call, so the best way to find them is to walk through or around a wetland in an effort to flush the birds from their hiding places.

If there’s a reedy wetland near you that you are able to survey, please contact us and we’ll provide you with information about how you can conduct a Bittern survey.

Bittern Survey Application


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