Bittern Surveys

To: "James O'Connor" <>
Subject: Bittern Surveys
From: peter crow <>
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2009 10:58:20 +1000
Good morning all,

I am doing my January clean up of my email file and found the Bittern discussion.

At one of my local patches Little Bitterns have been breeding and observers have been flocking to see them during most of January. The wetlands is Metroplex which is a small wetland in the middle of a large commercial and ware-housing estate on the Brisbane River just west of the Gateway Bridge. the Street address is Borthwick Ave Murrarie.

The wetland is joined to a larger wetaland by water under the bridge and closer to the river. This larger wetalnd has an island with breeding colonies of Aust White Ibis, Little Pied Cormorant in good numbers and Royal Spoonbill, Little and Great Egrets in smaller numbers.
The Bittern Wetland is about 500m from the river.

the wetland is about 200 metres long and 60 metres wide it is surrounded by trees about 6 to 8 metres tall and has a stand of melolucas 8m high in the water towards the northern end. Much of rest of the area consists of reeds of two different types. I'm no botanist.

Six Bitterns have been recorded but there could be more. Seen at the one time were two adult males. One adult female has bee seen on a number of occasions. This could be one bird seen many times or more than one bird. three Juveniles were seen and photographed together. Because of plumage is is possible there were more than three juveniles. One photo shows one bird with lots of down and another taken the next day shows three with very little down.

I visit this wetland often and have not heard or seen any evidence of Aust Bitterns. I played the calls on a number of occasions but got not replies.

I hope this ads a little to what you are attempting to establish.


On 17/12/2008, at 2:42 PM, James O'Connor wrote:

Hi all,

This spring and summer Birds Australia is undertaking a national survey of wetlands looking for both Australasian and Australian Little Bitterns. This is being done for two reasons. Firstly, because it appears that the Australasian Bittern population and distribution are declining. If you look at the BA website you will see atlas maps showing just how dramatic this decline appears to be. While numbers of birds from some areas are still high, in others the birds appear to be missing altogether.

Secondly, very little is known about the Australasian Bittern life cycle, feeding requirements and seasonal movement and without this information conservation strategies are difficult to formulate. All information would be helpful. Do you know a wetland that used to have Aust Bitterns, but no longer does? Have Aust Bitterns recently arrived at a wetland in your area? Have irrigation changes in your area, past and present, affected Bittern numbers? Do you know of Aust Bitterns breeding in your area?

More information about Aust Bitterns, the survey and a survey kit can be downloaded from the Birds Australia website at
or you can email the survey team at < > if you want a hard copy of the survey kit sent out or have any information.

Surprisingly, observers report Australian Little Bitterns to blogs and the BA Atlas more often than Australasian Bitterns. While the Australasian Bittern is the main target of the survey, BA would like to get a better understanding of the Australian Little Bittern as well. It appears that they may be taking advantage of the small suburban wetlands that are being placed in new developments as well as urban storm water retarding basins. It would also be interesting to know if any of them are resident in Australia all year round, as they are believed to migrate to New Guinea from March to about October, but this may not be the case for all birds, especially those in northern WA, NT and FNQ.


Andrew Silcocks

James O'Connor
Research Manager
Birds Australia
Suite 2-05
60 Leicester St
Carlton 3053

Ph (03) 9347 0757
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