Saturday, August 3, 2013

American Bittern or Green Heron

Every now and then a new bird species sneaks up on me. I admit I don't know birds and I am not embarrassed by that fact. One has to learn before they can be an 'expert'. As I become educated on the many species of wading birds, I find myself totally amazed at not just the subtle, but also the more obvious differences in the Heron species. I study birds by photographing them in their habitat in varying seasons and later reading about their variations of size and color and behavior. The Heron species vary widely in shape and color, but they also vary in how they use their surrounding habitat. I discovered this new species of Heron, new to me, the American Bittern, as he was wading among the tall, dense reeds along the marshes that parallel the motor route in Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

This particular species of Heron is smaller and stockier. Unlike the Great Blue Heron who is often seen standing in open water, the American Bittern prefers to stay hidden among the reeds in freshwater marshes. They are found mainly inland, but can also be found along the coast, as coastal marshes tend not to freeze during the colder winter months. I intently watched and photographed this Bittern for a while observing him wading in the mud on the parameter of the marsh. At times he would stretch his neck, standing straight up, and peer over the marsh reeds.

At other times, he seemed to crouch while cautiously wading out into the water, but mainly he stuck to his characteristic hidden stance near the reeds, out of sight to most.

My first thought when viewing these images initially was this was a Green Heron. But not being totally satisfied I investigated other heron species and discovered this was the American Bittern. I love learning bird behavior by watching them, and on this day, I discovered while the larger Herons typically stand still surveying the waters around them, oftentimes long necks extended, the smaller Bittern tends to move about more even though he's within close proximity to the marsh reeds. The larger Herons have a bird's eye view as they are so tall. But hey, when you're a smaller species, I guess you have to compensate. Have you seen the American Bittern in your travels? I never had. I personally think he's fascinating and hope to have another opportunity one day to photograph the Bittern again. Hope your weekend is a great one. ENJOY!

POSTSCRIPT: Do you think this is a Green Heron or an American Bittern? I have a reader who feels that my first thought of a Green Heron was accurate and I don't necessarily disagree with his thought. Why? Because that's what blogging is all about . . . learning. And in this case I'm middle of the road as to what species I photographed. But I love the fact that someone had a different opinion, because that means I've got folks thinking. And again that's what blogging is all about . . . learning, thinking. How wonderful is that!


  1. Out for a stroll with the Bittern. I like the Header Carol.

  2. Beautiful shots of a lovely bird regardless of the exact species. Looks like a green heron to me which I see all the time, but I have never observed a bittern. The aforementioned means we must keep getting out and observing more birds. That is a good thing!