Bittern, a bird of the heron family. It has a short, stocky body, a long, pointed bill, and olive or yellow legs. The American bittern is 24 to 34 inches (60 to 86 cm) long. It is brown with black streaks along the sides of the neck. The chin and throat are white with brown streaks. When it stands still, with its bill thrust upward, the bird can barely be distinguished from the surrounding reeds and grasses.

The American bitternThe American bittern has a short, stocky body and a long, pointed bill.

In summer, the American bittern nests in temperate regions of North America, usually north of Virginia. It winters from Virginia south to the West Indies. The American bittern lives in swamps and marshes and feeds on eels, tadpoles, and small fish that it spears with its bill. It is noted for its peculiar call, which sounds like oong-ka-chunk or oong-ka-choonk.

The least bittern is 11 to 14 inches (28 to 36 cm) long. It is black with buff patches on its wings and underparts. It is found in swamps from southern Canada to Texas. The female lays four or five bluish eggs on a platform of reeds.

Bitterns belong to the family Ardeidae. The American bittern is Botaurus lentiginosus; the least bittern, Ixobrychus exilis.