American Bittern

photo by NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Botaurus Lentiginosus
L 28″ (71 cm) W 42″ (107 cm.

Song or calls:
Hollow, low, chanting “oonk-a-chunk,” repeated several times; often heard at twilight or night.

Description: Sexes similar.
Adult heavily streaked below with rufous-brown on yellow-buff; dark brown above, finely marbled on back and wings; broad black stripe on side of yellow-brown neck; sides of chin white; bill yellowish; legs rather short and green. Juvenile similar, may lack black neck stripe.

Behavior: Walks with bill angled upward. When alarmed, freezes with bill pointing up, or flushes with rapid wingbeats.

american bittern
Habitat: Normally found in marshes with heavy emergent vegetation or with adjacent wet swales or tall grassy meadows.

Where in Nebraska: Uncommon regular spring and fall migrant statewide. uncommon regular breeder north and west, rare casual elsewhere. Hypothetical in winter.

Nebraska Seasons: A hypothetical visitor in winter.

Status: Appears to be a decline in numbers in Nebraska.

Fun Facts: To avoid detection from predators, American Bitterns stick their beak straight in the air so their barred neck blends in with the surrounding reeds and brush and sway with the wind much like the grasses would.

American Bittern - NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission 
(click image for larger view)