name = Bitterns

image_caption = Least Bittern
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Ciconiiformes
familia = Ardeidae
subdivision_ranks = Genera
subdivision = "Ixobrychus"Billberg, 1828
"Botaurus"Stephens, 1819

Bitterns are a classification of wading birds in the heron family Ardeidae. Species named as bitterns tend to be the shorter necked, often more secretive members of this family. Called "hæferblæte" in Old English, the word bittern came to English from Old French "butor", itself from Gallo-roman "butitaurus", a portmanteau of Latin "būtiō" and "taurus". [cite encyclopedia | editor = Joseph P. Pickett et al. | encyclopedia =The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language | title = Bittern | url = | accessdate = 2006-07-04 | edition = 4th ed. | year = 2000 | publisher = Houghton Mifflin | location = Boston] Bitterns form a monophyletic subfamily in the heron family, the Botaurinae.

Bitterns usually frequent reedbeds and similar marshy areas, and feed on amphibians, reptiles, insects, and fish.

Unlike the similar storks, ibises and spoonbills, herons and bitterns fly with their necks retracted, not outstretched.

The genus "Ixobrychus" contains mainly small species:
*Little Bittern, "Ixobrychus minutus"
* New Zealand Little Bittern, "Ixobrychus novaezelandiae" (extinct)
*Cinnamon Bittern, "Ixobrychus cinnamomeus"
*Stripe-backed Bittern, "Ixobrychus involucris"
*Least Bittern, "Ixobrychus exilis "
*Yellow Bittern, " Ixobrychus sinensis"
*Schrenck's Bittern, "Ixobrychus eurhythmus "
*Dwarf Bittern, "Ixobrychus sturmii"
*Black Bittern, "Ixobrychus flavicollis"

The genus "Botaurus" is the larger bitterns:
*American Bittern, "Botaurus lentiginosa".
*Great Bittern or Eurasian Bittern, "Botaurus stellaris"
*South American Bittern, "Botaurus pinnatus"
*Australasian Bittern, "Botaurus poiciloptilus"
*"Botaurus hibbardi" (fossil)

The genus "Zebrilus" includes only one species:
*Zigzag Heron (or properly Zigzag Bittern), "Zebrilus undulatus"


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bittern — Bit tern, n. [OE. bitoure, betore, bitter, fr. F. butor; of unknown origin.] (Zo[ o]l.) A wading bird of the genus {Botaurus}, allied to the herons, of various species. [1913 Webster] Note: The common European bittern is {Botaurus stellaris}. It… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • bittern — heron like bird, 13c., botor, from O.Fr. butor bittern, perhaps from Gallo Romance *butitaurus, from L. butionem bittern + taurus bull (see STEER (Cf. steer) (n.)); according to Pliny, so called because of its booming voice, but this seems… …   Etymology dictionary

  • bittern — bittern1 [bit′ərn] n. pl. bitterns or bittern [ME bitor < OFr butor < VL * butitaurus < L butio, bittern (< echoic base * bu ) + taurus, small bird that imitates the lowing of oxen, lit., bull: see STEER1] any of a subfamily… …   English World dictionary

  • bittern — ► NOUN ▪ a marshbird of the heron family, noted for the male s deep booming call. ORIGIN Old French butor, from Latin butio bittern + taurus bull (because of its call) …   English terms dictionary

  • BITTERN — (Heron; Heb. אֲנָפָה, anafah), mentioned among the unclean birds (Lev. 11:19; Deut. 14:18) and referring to birds of the family Ardeidae which are aquatic and marsh birds. Various species occur in Israel such as the white heron (Egretta alba)… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Bittern — Bit tern, n. [From {Bitter}, a.] 1. The brine which remains in salt works after the salt is concreted, having a bitter taste from the chloride of magnesium which it contains. [1913 Webster] 2. A very bitter compound of quassia, cocculus Indicus,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • bittern — bittern1 /bit euhrn/, n. 1. any of several tawny brown herons that inhabit reedy marshes, as Botaurus lentiginosus (American bittern), of North America, and B. stellaris, of Europe. 2. any of several small herons of the genus Ixobrychus, as I.… …   Universalium

  • bittern — [14] The Latin word for ‘bittern’ (a marsh bird) was būtiō, but by the time it reached Old French it had become butor. The discrepancy has been accounted for by proposing a Vulgar Latin intermediate *būtitaurus, literally ‘bittern bull’ (Latin… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • bittern — [14] The Latin word for ‘bittern’ (a marsh bird) was būtiō, but by the time it reached Old French it had become butor. The discrepancy has been accounted for by proposing a Vulgar Latin intermediate *būtitaurus, literally ‘bittern bull’ (Latin… …   Word origins

  • bittern — UK [ˈbɪtə(r)n] / US [ˈbɪtərn] noun [countable] Word forms bittern : singular bittern plural bitterns a bird that lives near water and makes a loud deep sound …   English dictionary

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