Bitter ‘Nole Precedents and Bittern New Residents

A quick recap of the Bowl Season—UF Gators won and FSU Seminoles lost.  I realize their Rose Bowl loss is the Seminoles’ only loss of the season and the Gator’s Birmingham Bowl win was practically their only win of the season.  If any Seminole fans out there feel the need to rub our Gator noses in that, please refer to the first sentence.  We can now all become honourary Oregon Duck fans to cheer on an amazing group of kids who have played some pretty amazing ball this year.  I think we should name Peace River Wildlife Center’s new resident wood duck Mariota in honour of the Duck’s (and maybe future Tampa Bay Buccaneers’!) quarterback, Marcus Mariota.


For those of you who are wondering why I am writing about sports this week instead of wildlife, may I remind you that I did indeed talk about ducks and alligators in my opening salvo?  And that I am actually no more qualified to write about wildlife than I am sports, theater, or cooking.  However, that has never stopped me before, and I don’t want to set a precedent.


Over the last couple weeks I have introduced PRWC’s new resident wood duck and little blue heron.  Another new resident at PRWC is an American bittern.  As a winter-only resident of Southwest Florida, this medium-sized heron with a distinctive appearance is a thrilling addition to our family.  The vertical stripes of brown, black, and white help the bird to blend in to his freshwater wetlands habitat.  This colouration camouflage is his main crypsis.  Crypsis is an ecological term for the ability to avoid observation.  It can be accomplished by camouflage (many species), time of day of activity and feeding (nocturnal animals), location of burrow or nest (underground), transparency (jellyfish) and mimicry (moths).  The bittern’s deep booming call could be considered a form of auditory crypsis.  It is often difficult to locate the origin of the far-carrying call, giving it a ventriloquist-like quality.


The bittern’s camouflage helps him avoid detection while hunting prey.  He feeds on insects, amphibians, small fish and rodents.  In his northern breeding habitat he will frequent freshwater wetlands.  He winters near southern waters (that’s us!) because of the more temperate climate and can even be seen in brackish marshes during that time.  The bittern is a solitary feeder, standing still in or near shallow water and striking quickly when he sees prey.  While he can be seen eating any time of the day, he is generally a crepuscular hunter.  He stalks his prey during the low light of dawn and dusk.  (Did someone get a word of the day calendar from Santa?)


This Friday, January 9, 2015 PRWC will hold our monthly Sunset Celebration from 4-6p.m. at our facility.  It is a great time to check out the resident birds, learn a little more about PRWC, and witness a spectacular sunset over Charlotte Harbour.  Come down and help us think of crazy names for our newest residents.  We may even entertain suggestions for other names for our wood duck in case you don’t like Mariota.  The name, not the player.  Who could hate that kid?  Unless you are a ‘Nole fan.

by-Robin Jenkins, DVM

American Bittern
American Bittern