Least bittern Facts

Least bittern Facts
Least bittern is one of the smallest members of the heron family. There are 5 subspecies of least bittern that can be found in North and South America (from Canada to Argentina). Least bittern inhabits brackish and freshwater marshes. Draining of wetlands and introduction of new species of plants are the greatest threats for the survival of least bitterns in the wild. Least bittern is classified as threatened in several states.
Interesting Least bittern Facts:
Least bittern can reach 11 to 14.2 inches in length and 1.8 to 3.6 ounces of weight.
Least bittern has glossy, greenish-black (males) or brown (females) back, light brown face and lateral sides of the neck, white throat and creamy-white belly. Wings are covered with light brown stripes.
Least bittern occasionally undergoes "dark phase". During this phase, light-colored plumage becomes reddish-brown colored.
Least bittern has long neck, slender, yellowish bill and yellow eyes. It has long toes equipped with sharp claws.
Least bittern is a carnivore (meat-eater). Its diet is based on small fish, frogs, salamanders, slugs, crayfish, insects and rarely on mice and shrews.
Least bittern usually stands at the base of aquatic plants (such as reed and cattail), near the surface of the water and waits for the prey to appear. It easily collects small animals from the water using its long, thin bill.
Least bitterns use various calls for communication. Males produce low, soft "coo-coo-coo" calls to attract the females. Harsh, "gack-gack", calls can be heard during the nesting season. Least bitterns usually vocalize early in the morning and late in the evening.
When least bittern detects danger, it freezes in place, erects bill upwards and sways in the wind like a reed to fool the predators such as snapping turtles and red-tailed hawks.
Least bittern migrates toward the southern parts of the USA during the autumn. Migration takes place during the night.
Mating season of least bitterns starts in June. It takes place in the freshwater marshes. Least bitterns usually produce 2 broods per season.
Least bitterns nest solitary or in small groups of up to 15 breeding couples.
Both male and female participate in the construction of the nest using the cattail leaves. Nest is a platform with depression in the middle. It is located in dense stands of reed, cattail or rush. Least bitterns can easily approach the nest by foot.
Female lays 2 to 7 (usually 4 to 5) eggs. Both parents participate in the incubation of eggs which lasts 16 to 18 days.
Both parents provide food for their chicks. Young birds are ready to leave the nest 5 to 14 days after hatching, but they are not able to fly until the age of one month.
Least bittern can survive up to 6 years in the wild.

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