A shy, secretive bird of dense weedy marshes and sloughs, and
one of the smallest of the world's herons. Rather than wading like most of the
herons, the Least Bittern uses its long toes to clamber around emergent wetland
vegetation, just above the water's surface. The Least Bittern is one of
multiple similar species to "freeze" when startled, raising its head
and swaying back and forth in an attempt to blend in with the swaying marsh
Habitat: Freshwater marshes and sloughs with dense
emergent wetland vegetation.
Diet: Mostly small fish
and large insects. Also crustaceans, amphibians, small rodents, and small
Behavior: Least Bitterns cling to vegetation stems
with their feet, staying just above the water's surface, searching for prey
and thrusting the bill downwards to grab prey items when spotted.
Nesting: June and July
Migration: Summers throughout most the eastern U.S. and in scattered locations in the
West. Winters in the extreme southern U.S., Mexico, and Central America.
Conservation Status: In decline in some
areas due to habitat loss and pesticide runoff.
eNature.com: Least Bittern
Whatbird.com: Least Bittern
Photo Information: Photo
taken near Pierre by Doug