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          By joining the biggest community of bird lovers in Australia, you can help us make a positive impact on the future of our native birdlife. The members of BirdLife Australia, along with our supporters and partners, have been powerful advocates for native birds and the conservation of their habitats since 1901.

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          Australasian Bittern

          Botaurus poiciloptilus

          Australasian Bitterns specialise in living in dense beds of reeds and rushes, where they are surprisingly difficult to see, as they are particularly well camouflaged. Added to this, when alarmed, they stand still with neck stretched upwards and bill pointing skywards. Sometimes they even sway in the breeze, in time with the surrounding reeds. This combination makes them blend in remarkably well with the surrounding vegetation. It is hardly surprising that the species is seldom recorded.

          To find out more about BirdLife Australia's work with the Australasian Bittern, click here.



          The Australasian Bittern is a heavy-set, partially nocturnal heron with upperparts that are patterned dark brown, buff and black, and underparts that are streaked brown and buff. The eyebrow and throat are pale, and the side of the neck is dark brown. The bill is brown and the legs are greenish. The Australasian Bittern is also called the Australian Bittern or the Brown Bittern.

          Similar Species

          The juvenile Nankeen Night Heron, Nycticorax caledonicus, is a similar shape and also has patterned upperparts but the colours are rufous-brown, and there is no dark streak on the side of the neck. It is also generally smaller, at up to 59 cm.



          The Australasian Bittern is found in coastal and sub-coastal areas of south-eastern and south-western mainlnand Australia, and the eastern marshes of Tasmania.


          The Australasian Bittern frequents reedbeds, and other vegetation in water such as cumbungi, lignum and sedges.



          Australasian Bitterns forage mainly at night on a wide range of small animals, including birds, mammals, fish, frogs, yabbies, snails, insects and spiders. Like other herons, these birds use several techniques to capture prey, including: standing and waiting, slow stalking, and active pursuit. Wing and leg movements are used to confuse or attract prey items.


          The Australasian Bittern has a regular season but will also breed during inland flooding. The nest is a shallow structure of dry or green reeds, within a clump of reeds in water or a swamp and is built on a platform of bent-over reeds. Several females will nest within one male's territory.

          Conservation Status