Botaurus stellaris


A rare, shy heron, Bitterns spend almost all their time hidden away in large reedbeds, where they feed on eels and other fish. Bitterns have wonderfully camouflaged plumage, helping them to blend into the reeds. They can also stand motionless for long periods to avoid detection.

How to identify

Very well camouflaged: pale brown plumage, streaked with beige and black markings.

Where to find it

A shy, rare bird found in large reedbeds, especially in East Anglia, Kent, South Wales and North West England.

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Bitterns are one of the UK's most rare and threatened birds - the reedbeds they depend on are disappearing through pollution, agriculture and the inundation of coastal sites as sea levels rise. The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with planners, developers and farmers to ensure our reedbeds are protected. And careful habitat management carried out by The Wildlife Trusts on local nature reserves where Bitterns live help them to survive. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Botaurus stellaris
Herons, egrets and spoonbill
Length: 70-80cm Wingspan: 1.3m Weight: 1-1.5kg
Conservation status
Fully protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.