The Acrobatic Least Bitterns
Of The Blue Heron Wetlands

Text and Photographs By

Bob Paty

The Acrobatic Least Bittern

The Acrobatic Least Bittern

I have been fortunate to watch and photograph more Least Bitterns at the Blue Heron Wetlands in Titusville, Florida, during the last week of June. 2011, than I have ever seen in the twenty-five or so years doing wildlife photography. What an incredible bird they are. I have listened to the chorus of their calls and watched so many of their acrobatic maneuvers as they feed. The one thing that stands out is that each bittern is an individual in its color and feather pattern. This alone is fascinating. The Least Bittern is the prime acrobat of the world of birds. They are hands down my favorite bird to photograph. I know of no other bird that uses the feeding method as the Least Bittern. Not much larger than a Mourning Dove, they are usually hiding. If anyone told me what I would experience the those few days at the Blue Heron Wetlands, I would not have believed them. I took two hundred and ten photos one morning. all of Least Bitterns!

The first morning was just a clue of what to expect if I arrived earlier. I got to the wetlands about seven fifteen the second morning and immediately circled around to the north east cell. Least Bitterns were everywhere, some were flying, but most of them were feeding at the edges of the open water. I have no clue as to how many I saw, I would guess between twenty to thirty. I was able to select the ones that I wanted to photograph. Another amazing thing is that the majority of them were out in the open.

On the third morning I arrived a little later than I planned and again the activity of the Least Bitterns was fast and furious. However their activity stopped at approximately 8:45. It was like a switch had been turned off. There were none anywhere. The other day I was under the impression they were intimidated by my van, even though I remain inside when "shooting." This morning I selected a bird close to me and started the van motor several times, even moving the van. The Least Bittern continued to feed! After the bittern activity stopped, even the birds that remained fifty or more yards away disappeared.

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