Bitterns are waterbirds, living mostly in freshwater sites. They are a type of heron, wading birds in the family Ardeidae. They are shorter-necked, and more secretive than other herons. Most of them have good camouflage amongst the reeds where they make their nests.
Bitterns form a monophyletic subfamily of the herons, the Botaurinae.
Bitterns usually frequent reedbeds and similar marshy areas, and feed on amphibians, reptiles, insects, and fish. Unlike the similar storks, ibises, and spoonbills, herons and bitterns fly with their necks retracted, not outstretched.
Bitterns are in three genera. The genus Ixobrychus contains mainly small species. The genus Botaurus has the larger bitterns. There is a single species in a third genus, Zebrilus. The distribution of bitterns is pretty much worldwide.
- butor, itself from Gallo-roman butitaurus, a portmanteau of Latin būtiō and taurus. Joseph P. Pickett, ed. (2000). "Bittern". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed. ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved 2006-07-04.CS1 maint: extra text (link)
- Hancock J.A. 1999. Herons and Egrets of the world: a photographic journey. Academic Press, Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-12-322725-6