As the name suggests, the species is the largest in the family. The length of the big bittern is up to 80 cm, the wingspan is up to 130 cm, body weight – 0.87-1.94 kg.
The appearance of a great bittern
In a large bittern, the plumage alternates between bright and pale areas, the main color is light brown, dark streaks and stripes are visible against this background. Top of head black. The long beak is yellow, the upper part is brown and almost black at the tip. Iris yellow.
The bridge of the nose is green down to the bottom of the beak. The sides of the head are painted brown. Neck dark yellow-brown. Chin and throat white-cream with a tan median stripe.
The back of the neck and back are brown-gold with black and variegated specks and spots. The shoulder feathers are elongated, their center is brown, folded wings hide a large white border. The top of the wings is pale red, on the front edge they are darker and with black spots.
Flight feathers are pale red to brown with dark spots. The chest is yellow with brown longitudinal veins and small black spots. The stripes are wide on the chest and narrow on the belly. The underwings are pale yellow with gray spots. Paws and toes are pale green.
The population of large bitterns in Europe is 20-40 thousand. individuals. The species inhabits reed thickets. Great bitterns prefer mild weather conditions, the number of birds decreases closer to regions with a temperate European and Asian climate, they migrate south from areas where water bodies are covered with ice in winter.
Big bitterns prefer solitude. Birds seek food in reed thickets, sneak unnoticed or stand motionless above the water, where prey may appear. If the bittern feels danger, she raises her beak up and becomes motionless. The plumage merges with the surrounding landscape, and the predator loses sight of it. The bird searches for food at dawn and dusk.
Who is hunted by the big bittern
The bird’s diet consists of:
Bittern hunts along reed beds in shallow water.
How Great Bitterns Proceed
Males are polygamous, courting up to five females. The nest is built from last year’s reeds on a platform about 30 cm wide. The female lays four to five eggs in March-April, and the mother incubates the offspring. After birth, the brood spends about two weeks in the nest, and then the young are scattered among the reeds.