Birding Washington County | Bird Finding | American Bittern
Finding American Bittern in Washington County, Oregon


American Bittern, click for larger view
American Bittern at Killin Wetlands in April 2003. Photo by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Submitted by: Dennis E. Manzer on Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Site: Killin Wetlands

Site ownership: Metro Regional Parks & Greenspaces

General directions: W of Banks, OR, approx 3 mi. on either OR Hwy 6 or NW Cedar Canyon Rd. Each approach gives an unique perspective of the area.

Specific directions: Park at intersection of Cedar Canyon Road and Killin Road.

Season: Feb - May is breeding season. Listen for their distinctive, pumping "Oonk-a-loonk" calls. It seems to me & others with whom I've observed that they are capable of "throwing" their voices. There may be times that the sound seems to surely be coming from beneath your feet, but in fact the nearest visible bird may be 50m distant or more.

Comments: American Bittern is a reclusive species but less wary in courtship. Watch the water edges of Reed Canary Grass, Cattails, & other shoreline vegetation for unusual movement. Examine any movement more closely to see a part of a bird, e.g. its bill, head, neck, leg, etc. & soon you'll see the whole bird. Use your bino's starting in close & gradually search further out. If you can position yourself alongside brush or shrubs your silhouette will be less obvious. Cars make decent blinds but the road shoulders are pretty narrow. Be patient & scan carefully, using your spotting scope as desired. Stay on the roadside shoulders. The tricky thing in that is our huge profile is exposed which will cause most birds to take cover. I've had better luck by bringing along a closed-cell foam gardening kneeling pad for a seat, which I place just 2 steps down off the road shoulder. My tripod set short with the legs adjusted appropriately affords a comfortable position for extended viewing periods. I encourage the use of FRS radio ch 11-22 out here as people can spread out to do their scanning & when a bird is located, then it can be communicated discretely for all to enjoy.

Hazards: The worst hazard is the traffic which knows no speed limits at times. Most drivers are very cautious, but the odd one or two at 55 mph+ from only 3 feet away can be unnerving. There are no trails at this time & access is limited to the roadside shoulders.