I have long been an admirer of animals. I have had them as pets; learned about them in university; started a career revolving around them; and recently have been photographing them. Ever go into a greenspace and hear the call of an unfamiliar bird? Do you get the same burning desire to learn its identity and get a glimpse of it? Being an amateur bird photographer, I get that feeling quite often.
Funnily enough, the call of one of the rarest wild birds I have seen did not elicit that reaction. Why, you wonder? Well, it didn't sound like a bird at all! Here, you have a listen to this odd sound and see for yourself.
After wondering what kind of malfunctioning watering equipment Colony Farm Park was using, I located the source of the sound. Here is a that very same bird:
I couldn't leave the place without pictures of the handsome fellow:
So, what is that?
American Bittern is the common name of this weird bird. Botaurus lentiginosus is the fancy name I can never remember.
After working at Golden Ears during a placement with BC Parks Foundation and discovering it is home to this species, I starting looking past the name and into habitat and biology.
The dripping stalactite sound is made by inflating the esophagus with air then unleashing the stored air with sharp head bobs. It is blue listed on BC's Provincial list of species at risk due to habitat loss. It lives mainly in large marshes and wetlands: structures that are often filled in due to human development. It eats a variety of organisms such as insects, amphibians, crayfish, crabs, garter snakes, small fish, and rodents. Vole seems to be a favorite. Notice the different shades of brown stripes along its neck? When it feels like it may be in danger, it stretches its long neck, points its beak to the sky, and prays it looks like the reeds it lives amongst. It does a pretty decent job when it's in the middle of a thicket of brown reeds.
American bittern, photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie
If I didn't know any better, I'd say it lets out a stressed sigh after the danger passes: I know I would.