Bittern flourishes in Britain


The latest national survey of Eurasian Bittern has confirmed that 2023 was another fantastic year for the species, with 234 booming males logged in Britain.

The secretive heron is flourishing in Britain and the 2023 survey results show that the species was recorded at 11 new sites last year, including in areas of specially created habitat at the likes of Leighton Moss RSPB and on the Isle of Sheppey.

The number of booming males represents a 24% increase on the figure recorded only five years ago.

The rejuvenation and creation of reedbed habitat is vital to the species' long-term survival, not least as climate change-induced sea-level rise is resulting in the loss of freshwater habitat along the British coastline, making inland nature reserves all the more important for bittern conservation.

Eurasian Bittern is thriving in Britain, with 234 booming males counted in 2023 (Tim Melling).


Restoring reedbeds

Having previously become extinct as a breeding species in the UK in the 1870s due to hunting for food and the draining of their wetland habitats for agriculture, the recovery of the species to the numbers seen today has been long-awaited. In fact, bitterns returned to Norfolk in 1900 but suffered another drop in numbers to just 11 remaining booming males nationally by 1997, meaning the prospect of a second national extinction was a real threat to these incredible birds just a short time ago.

RSPB senior conservation scientist, Simon Wotton, said: "The success of this species is in no doubt thanks to conservation efforts by many dedicated organisations and landowners, including the volunteers who have helped to monitor bittern populations over the years. 

"It is brilliant to see the hard work of staff and volunteers in managing specialist habitat for bitterns paying off, and with many RSPB nature reserves now acting as a safe haven for this incredible species, spring really is the time to get out and try to hear their famous boom."


Where to see bitterns

The RSPB has listed its reserves which offer the best chance of connecting with Eurasian Bittern:

  • Leighton Moss, Lancashire
  • Middleton Lakes, Staffordshire
  • Old Moor, Yorkshire
  • St Aidan's Nature Park, Yorkshire
  • Blacktoft Sands, Yorkshire
  • Langford Lowfields, Nottinghamshire
  • Ouse Fen, Cambridgeshire
  • Minsmere, Suffolk
  • Lakenheath Fen, Suffolk
  • Avalon Marshes, Somerset
  • Cors Ddyga, Anglesey