Great Bittern

Great bittern

Name: Great Bittern

Europe, Middle Asia and South Africa. The Great Bittern is a migratory species spending the winter around the warm Mediterranean countries.

Distinctive features:
The males’ booming call in the spring
Males are polygamous, mating with up to five different females. The females incubate the eggs alone in nests in the water made by dry reed.. The males sometimes help with feeding of the offspring and later, leave the females.
Very conspicuous with its long neck and graceful body standing still among the reeds.
It is almost impossible to be seen as it walks through the reeds quietly by grabbing the stalks with its legs.

Locations in Bulgaria:
The most important places for the species are at Durankulak and Shabla Lakes as well as the marshes of Tsibarsko and Dragoman. The species can also be observed at Atanassovsko and Vaya Lakes and the water basins of the Mandra-Poda complex. It is likely that they inhabit wetlands around the rivers of Maritsa, Struma and Mesta, which all have large reed beds.

They can be found in wetlands with large reed beds, such as marshes and lakes overgrown with reed and bulrush. These types of habitat reflect the secretive way of life of the species. During the daytime, they hide among the thick wetland vegetation and become active just after sunset and stay this way until dawn. They are very difficult to observe as their plumage merges with the surrounding environment. They fly very low above the reeds in the marshes and lakes and lives mostly solitarily.

The most detailed assessment of the Great Bittern in Bulgaria in 2011 recorded 45 breeding males, estimating a total of 60–90 in the country. This represents a dramatic decline compared with previous counts. They in habits many marshes and rivers in Bulgaria. In most places of occurrence, only one to two males were recorded, but in the Dragoman marsh, 16 males were booming.
Only one couple is registered in the places where they usually appear. Up to three to four males have been observed in Durankulak and Shabla Lakes, as well as in Tsibarsko and Dragoman marshes.

Nature conservation status:
An endangered species not only in Bulgaria. Their numbers have decreased everywhere, often as a result of wetlands being drained and destroyed in order to be turned into arable lands or construction sites.

Favorite hobby:
Their diet includes frogs, snails, shrimps, fishes and even mammals such as small Water Rats. They sometimes attack some small wading birds that do not fly very well.