American Bitterns are skillful stalkers of still waters. They breed in freshwater wetlands across northern North America and spend winters in Cuba, Mexico, and the southeastern U.S., including at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Little is known about the natural history of these secretive marsh birds, but their numbers are declining across their range due to the loss and degradation of wetland habitats. Each winter, some eagle-eyed visitors on the boardwalk spot American Bitterns, hidden amidst alligator flags and sawgrass. They stand extremely still, blending in with their environment, as they study the water for prey. While they specialize in fish, crayfish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures, they also eat anoles, snakes, and even dragonflies.
By April, American Bitterns embark on their journeys north for the summer breeding season. The challenges they face on that journey are numerous, but perhaps the biggest one is drought.
On World Water Day or any day, consider your water use. Especially during Florida's dry season, water conservation is critical for wildlife like the American Bittern.
Learn more about the amazing migration of bitterns and the challenges they face using the Bird Migration Explorer from Audubon's Migratory Bird Initiative and partners.