Distinguishing Features - A brown, medium-sized heron, 60 - 85 cm long, with a stout body and neck and relatively short legs. Adult plumage is all brown above, finely flecked with black, and heavily streaked with brown and white below. The crown is rusty-brown. A long, black patch extends from below the eye down the side of the neck, a feature unique among herons. The throat is white. Sexes are similar, except that the male is slightly larger.
Breeds from southern Alaska to southern California; common throughout Canada's boreal regions; primarily in large freshwater and sometimes in brackish marshes, including lake and pond edges where cattails, sedges, or bulrushes are plentiful and marshes where there are patches of open water and aquatic-bed vegetation; occurs also in other areas with dense herbaceous cover, such as shrubby marshes, bogs, wet meadows, and, rarely, hayfields.
The American Bittern feeds mostly on frogs, snakes, small fish and creyfish in the marshes. It will occasionally visit open fields to dine on grashoppers and mice.
During the breeding season, males repeat a distinctive, far-carrying call, rendered as "pump-er-lunk" which is often preceded by a series of clicking and gulping sounds. They rely on their resounding calls to communicate among the dense vegetation that dominates nesting habitats. Low frequency sounds, such as their "booming" are audible at greater distances in dense marsh vegetation than high frequency sounds. When flushed from a marsh, they often emit a hoarse "kok-kok-kok" or nasal "haink".
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