Britain's Loudest Bird Returns from the Brink of Extinction

The wetland bird was facing extinction in the UK as recently as 1997.


(Voodison328 /

A bird of many names, the bittern is a beloved member of the heron family. The wetland bird was facing extinction in the UK as recently as 1997. According to conservationists reports, the number of “Britain’s loudest bird” is now at an all-time high.

Bitterns were once bred throughout the UK. George Montagu wrote in the Ornithological Dictionary of British Birds in 1831 that in Scotland “the sound of the bittern is so very common that every child is familiar with it, though the birds, from being shy, are not often seen.”

By the end of the 19th century, however, bitterns were considered extinct as a breeding species in the UK. They were recolonized in the 20th century, but once again faced extinction by 1997, with a recorded 11 booming males in the UK. Today, there are over 188 booming males, and the numbers continue to grow each year.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the increase in numbers is due to the conservation efforts of the bitterns’ habitat, which is dense, wet, reedbeds.

Simon Wotton, Senior Conservation Scientist at the RPSB, told The Guardian, “In the late 1990s the bittern was heading towards extinction once again in the UK. But thanks to conservation efforts to restore and create its preferred habitat of wet reedbed, the bittern was saved and we’re delighted to see another record year for this amazing bird.”

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