Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
The American Bittern breeds in wetlands across much of Canada and the northern half of the United States. It winters in the southern United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
The American Bittern inhabits large, reedy wetlands, and needs shallow freshwater marshes for nesting. In the winter, it may also use brackish coastal marshes. Its camouflage, an adaptation for life in the marsh, makes the bird extremely difficult to see as it stalks through the reeds and cattails. When alarmed, the American Bittern may flush and fly away, or it may freeze with its head, neck, and bill pointing straight up, blending in perfectly with its reedy background.
The bittern finds its preferred diet in marshes—aquatic fauna ranging from fish and eels to insects, crabs, and snakes. The bird hunts by remaining perfectly still at water's edge, waiting for its prey, which it captures in a rapid spearing motion. It may also stalk prey with great patience. It is usually most active at dusk and dawn.
American Bitterns are sometimes polygynous, with one male mating with several females. While the nesting habits of the species are not well known, it seems that the female does most of the nest-building, incubation, and chick rearing. The nest is a platform structure of reeds and grasses, upon which 3 to 5 eggs are laid, then incubated for at least 24 days. The young may leave the nest after only a week or two, but they remain close by for another month or longer, until they are able to fly.
Breeding area covers most of the Canadian provinces and the northern half of the contiguous United States. Winters along most of the Pacific and Atlantic (from New Jersey south) coasts of the United States, south to Cuba and throughout most of Mexico to Central America.