Bittern (Great Bittern)
Distribution Britain 13 (-62.9%) Ireland 0
Numbers breeding: Britain 19 males Ireland 0
European status: 10,500 (0% in Britain and Ireland)
British population trend: falling but increase in 1999
This big striped brown heron is famous for its booming call which enables research scientists to distinguish males as individuals from recordings. Nesting in Ireland and Scotland had ceased by 1840 and at the turn of the century the Bittern was lost as a breeding bird in England. After a few years they returned and more than 80 booming males were logged annually in the mid-1950s. There were birds in large reed-beds in several areas, including Anglesey and they were heard in a few places in Ireland. But by 1976 the population had dropped below 50 and a few years later none were breeding outside East Anglia and Lancashire. Much money and effort is being spent to retain these interesting and elusive birds. The total of at least 19 booming males in 1999 was encouraging after only 11 and 13 in previous two years. Prospects good unless there are cold winters and provided the extensive work on habitat provision is kept up.
UKBAP English Nature RSPB.
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead