RSPB survey confirms bittern is spreading north


A pair of Eurasian Bitterns nested at RSPB Saltholme last summer, making them the most northerly breeding individuals in Britain.

The RSPB confirmed the success of the birds on Teesside in 2022, with Warden Ed Pritchard saying it was a "fantastic result" for nature in the area.

A pair of Eurasian Bittern bred at RSPB Saltholme last summer (Tim Melling).

"During the cold January days, when the pools froze over, the bitterns were once again seen feeding at the edge of the reedbed," said Mr Pritchard. "Now spring has arrived we are looking forward to hearing the booming of the male bird once again."

Maintaining the right habitat for the birds, such as cutting areas of established reed, could not be achieved without the help of volunteers, Mr Pritchard added. When RSPB Saltholme reserve was first opened in 2009 one of its main objectives was to attract the elusive, reedbed-dwelling species.

Bitterns had another great breeding season in the UK in 2022 with 228 booming males counted, according to newly published survey results from the RSPB and Natural England. Simon Wotton, the RSPB's senior conservation scientist, said: "Many wetlands were drained in the 19th and 20th centuries to make space for agriculture, leaving bittern fewer and fewer places to breed.

"One of the aims of the bittern work since 1990 was to create and restore suitable wetlands away from the coast – to create safe sites that wouldn't be affected by the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels. Rewetting these spaces also helps prevent flooding and fights the climate crisis – wetlands are incredible carbon sponges, with coastal wetlands locking in more carbon that forests. A win-win for the nature and climate crises."