Family Herons (Ardeidae)

Least Concern

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)


French: Butor d’Amérique German: Nordamerikanische Rohrdommel Spanish: Avetoro lentiginoso
Other common names: North American Bittern

Ardea lentiginosa


, 1813,

Piddletown, Dorset, England


Apparently most closely related to B. pinnatus. Monotypic.


S & C Canada (from British Columbia N to Great Slave Lake and along S Hudson Bay E to Newfoundland) S through much of USA, and, at least formerly, in C Mexico. Winters in S USA (California, Gulf Coast and S Atlantic coast), Mexico and West Indies. Old records from Costa Rica and Panama.

Descriptive notes

56–85 cm; 372–1072 g; wingspan 105–125 cm. Limited overlap with B. pinnatus (mainly in Mexico), but latter is separable from present species by... read more


Has far-carrying booming song typical of all Botaurus bitterns, rendered “oong, kach, oonk... read more


Marshes and bogs with shallow (5–20 cm) fresh, brackish or salt water, including artificial... read more

Food and feeding

Very variable, but mainly fish, including eels, catfish, perch, pickerel, suckers, killifish and sticklebacks; also frogs (Rana,... read more


Laying Apr–Jul, mostly May in Minnesota, New York and Michigan, and Jun in Quebec. Generally solitary and territorial, with densities... read more


Extensive post-breeding dispersal from Jul; in Sept–Nov birds migrate S, returning Feb–... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Population levels difficult to estimate, but species generally considered to be stable in Canada and to lesser extent in southernmost... read more

Recommended citation

Martínez-Vilalta, A., Motis, A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).