The Bittern is smaller than the closely related Heron and much more secretive. They are heavily camouflaged in shades of brown and buff with a variety of mottled markings. Although rarely seen, the male’s unmistakable booming call in spring is a good indication of potential breeding.

The Bittern is dependent on large areas of reed for breeding. Bitterns have dramatically declined in recent years, due to habitat loss through drainage and decline of food supply such as fish and amphibians. Bittern are still declining in many parts of the UK and it is now a rare breeding species, but progress is being made in some habitats as part of the RSPB national initiative.

Creating extensive ‘Phragmites’ reed-beds in a fresh water habitat, with abundant fish and amphibians as a source of food, appears to be the key to success.  The UK Spring population is now (2013) about 75 ‘booming males’ and the Winter population is about 600 individuals.


Local Status

Within Barnsley, Bittern has in the past, been recorded as a passage migrant or an occasional winter visitor. However, extensive reedbed habitat creation in the Dearne Valley by the RSPB, has encouraged a pair of Bitterns to successfully breed in2012 and 2013 (four chicks). This is a major achievement.

Work on reedbeds at Worsbrough Reservoir has not been successful in attracting Bittern.

Proposed Local Action: