The Bittern is known as Britain’s loudest bird because it used to be so common to hear it that everybody knew it’s sound. And of course, it is loud. Unfortunately, over the past couple of centuries, the beloved bittern has almost disappeared completely from existence. But now, there is good news regarding this birds situation – the number of bitterns has reached an all-time high since 1997 giving wildlife conservationists and everyone big hope that the species will prevail.
It was written back in 1831, in the Ornithological Dictionary of British Birds, that:
“In Scotland, the sound of the bittern is so very common that every child is familiar with it, though the birds, from being shy, are not often seen.” – George Montagu
The bittern is a wetland bird, a member of the heron family, that has been facing extinction in the United Kingdom since the end of the 1990s. At one point there were only 11 booming males in the UK left. Fortunately, last year they recorded 164 (at least), and this year over 188, meaning the numbers are continuing to grow each year.
The way they keep count of the males is very interesting. They record their singing (booming) and are able to use the sound recording to individually identify each bird separately. This is possible because each birds voice pattern is uniquely his own.
The rising numbers are all thanks to the conservation efforts of the dense, wet, reedbeds – their natural habitat – says the wildlife charity The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). According to Simon Wotton, senior conservation scientist at the RSPB:
“In the late 1990s the bittern was heading towards extinction once again in the UK. But thanks to conservation efforts to restore and create its preferred habitat of wet reedbed, the bittern was saved and we’re delighted to see another record year for this amazing bird.”
These conservation efforts have gone as far as to create ice-free areas and supplementary feeding during severe winter weather. A harsh winter can kill off many bitterns, especially since their numbers are already drastically low.
These birds were at one point prized as a dish for medieval banquets. Now they are a rarity prized for surviving. The continual monitoring is crucial for them to even stand a chance. But for now, we can celebrate the bittern victory of increasing numbers as it battles the brink of extinction!