The Australasian Bittern, Botaurus poiciloptilus, also known as the Brown Bittern, is found in south-western and south-eastern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Ouvea. Populations in Australia and New Zealand have declined in the 20th century.
It is a large bittern, patterned and streaked brown, buff and black, with a pale throat. It is a cryptic and partly nocturnal species that inhabits densely vegetated wetlands. It feeds on aquatic animals such as frogs, eels and freshwater crustaceans. It is a solitary nester on the ground in dense wetland vegetation on trampled reeds and other plants. It has a distinctive booming voice and may be heard more often than seen.
The principal cause of past and ongoing decline is thought to be wetland drainage and degradation. In Australia it is thought to be particularly sensitive to the destruction of drought refugia.
The Australasian Bittern is not listed as threatened on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Australasian Bittern is listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has not been prepared. On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, this species is listed as endangered.
Painting by John Gould.
In the grass, Leeton, NSW, Australia.