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Australasian bittern

bittern Oscar Thomas3

Botaurus poiciloptilus (also known as Matuku hurepo)


Found throughout New Zealand and in parts of Australia and New Caledonia.




A wide variety of aquatic prey.


In the breeding season, male bitterns make distinctive booming calls, often the only indication of their presence. Between August and December (peaking in November), 3-6 eggs are laid and incubated by the female about 25 days.


The nest is usually a platform made of wetland vegetation, raised 20-30cm above the water.


Fledging age is about 7 weeks.


Chiefly loss of habitat.

Conservation status:



Bitterns are large members of the heron family, rarely seen due to their secretive behaviour, excellent camouflage and the inaccessibility of their habitat. They are most active at dawn, dusk and through the night.
When disturbed, a bittern will try to avoid detection by a stealthy and silent withdrawal, or by “freezing” in place, bill pointing skyward, as tall and straight as a reed. A nest may be abandoned if disturbance is severe.
The most important site for bitterns in New Zealand is the Whangamarino Wetland in the Waikato.
The drainage of wetlands, water pollution and drought have contributed most to the fall in numbers, but as bitterns are difficult to monitor and few studies have been made, it is unknown if the population is currently stable or still in decline.