common bittern



common bittern defined in 1930 year

common bittern - Common Bittern;
common bittern - Crown and nape black; general colour buff, irregularly barred above and streaked below with black; feathers of the neck long and forming a ruff; bill greenish yellow; legs and feet green. Length, thirty inches.

The bittern, formerly a common bird, is hardly entitled to h place in this book, since it has long been extirpated as a breeding species. It is, however, a noteworthy fact that, whereas other species that have been driven out, such as the great bustard, spoonbill, avocet, black tern, and several more, appear now as only rare occasional visitors in our country, the bittern comes back to us annually, as if ever seeking to recover its lost footing in our island. And that he would recover it, and breed again in suitable places as in former times, is not to be doubted, if only the human inhabitants would allow it; but, unhappily, this bird, like the ruff, hoopoe, and kingfisher, when stuffed and in a glass case, is looked upon as an attractive ornament by persons of a low order of intelligence and vulgar tastes.

The bittern is a bird of singular appearance. On the wing he resembles the heron, but it is a rare thing to see him abroad in the daytime. He is strictly nocturnal in habits, and passes the daylight hours concealed in thick reed-beds in extensive marshes. His buff and yellow and chestnut colour, mottled and barred and pencilled with black and brown, gives him a strange tigride or catlike appearance; it is a colouring well suited to his surroundings, where yellow and brown dead vegetation is mixed with the green, and the stems and loose leaves of the reeds throw numberless spots and bars of shade beneath. Secure in its imitative colouring, the bittern remains motionless in its place until almost trodden upon. Its active life begins in the evening, when it leaves its hiding-place to prey on fishes, eels, frogs, voles, small birds, and insects, and every living thing it finds and is able to conquer with a blow of its sharp, powerful bill.

When flying he utters a harsh, powerful scream, and he has. besides, a strange vocal performance, called ' booming ' - a sound that resembles the bellowing of a bull. Formerly, when the bittern was a common bird in England, this extraordinary evening performance was the subject of some superstitious notions, and it was commonly believed that, to produce so great a volume of sound, the bird, when screaming, thrust its beak and head into the water. Thus, in Thomson's ' Seasons ' we read: -

The bittern knows his time, with bill submerged,
To shake the sounding marsh.

In March or April the nest is made on the ground, among the thick reeds, and is formed of weeds, sticks, and rushes. The eggs are four in number, of an olive-brown colour, sometimes with a greenish shade.

Besides the two species described there are no fewer than eight herons in our list of British birds, most of these being very rare stragglers to our shores: -

Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) is a straggler from the continent of Europe; it breeds in Holland.
Great white heron (Ardea alba). - Eight examples of this species, a straggler from South-eastern Europe, have been obtained in this country.
Little egret (Ardea gazetta). - A waif from Southern Europe; it also inhabits Africa, Asia, and Australia
Buff-backed heron (Ardea bubulcus). - Inhabits Southern Europe; three examples have been obtained.
Squacco heron (Ardea ralloïdes). - From Southern Europe; occasionally seen on migration in England.
Little bittern (Ardetta minuta). - This bittern almost deserves to rank as a British species, as it is of somewhat frequent occurrence, and has been known to breed in the Broads of Norfolk, and in other localities in Great Britain. It is a summer visitor to most countries in Europe.
Night heron (Nycticorax griseus). - This heron has a range almost as extensive as that of the barn-owl, and breeds in many localities throughout the continent of Europe. The question as to whether or not it has ever bred in England has not been settled; but it is now an almost annual spring and autumn visitor to our country, and it is hardly to be doubted that it would breed with us if unmolested, or, in other words, allowed to live.
American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus). - A few examples of this North American bittern have been obtained in this country.

Two other families in the present order (Herodiones) are represented by occasional visitors in the list of British birds - two storks (Ciconiidae), and a spoonbill, and an ibis (Platalaidse): -

White stork (Ciconia alba). - Common in Holland, and an occasional visitor to the east coast of England.
Black stork (Ciconia nigra). - A rare straggler from continental Europe.
Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia). - Now an occasional straggler to Great Britain; formerly a regular breeder in heronries in several localities in England.
Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). - A very rare straggler from Southern Europe.

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near common bittern in Knolik


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