Eurasian or Great bittern is a tall bird with strong body. Body length is 69 – 81 cm, wingspan 100 –130 cm, weight from 900 – 1100 g. Great bittern feeds mainly from fish, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates. Great bittern’s particularly favourite is the eel. However, it also eats small mammals and birds. It hunts in reed – slowly paddling in shallow water in search of prey. Sometimes it can be seen rigid, observing water.
Great bittern is mainly active in the early morning and at night. Well-disguised. When in danger – bittern straightens upright, neck and beak straight up and resign swaying equalling reeds. Not only unusual posture, but also a speckled yellow-brown plumage, helps to camouflage. It is said that it is easier to hear the Eurasian Bittern than to see it. Its loud call is heard during the mating season about 2 km away. Great bitterns characterized call is heard mostly by night and dusk, is hollow and repeated distant call, resembling a bull shout or a distant blow in an empty bottle.
Great bittern is a migrant bird, during the winter it goes south to warmer places, it is considered as a normal migratory and nesting bird, but sometimes Great bittern overwinters in Latvia. First details of overwinter acquired in 1967. In recent years over-wintering is more and more common, but mostly in Kurland and the central part of the country.
To restore Bittern habitats in lake Pape, Pasaules Dabas Fonds together with partners implements COASTLAKE project (LIFE12 NAT/LV/000118 COASTLAKE).
Project long term objective: to improve the conservation status of the Bittern Botaurus stellaris in Latvia and EU according to the framework for species conservation set by EU Species Action plan.
Project implementation: 01.09.2013 – 31.08.2017
Project short term objectives:
- To improve the conservation status of Bittern and improve ecosystem functions in two most important coastal lakes for the species – Lake Engure Natura 2000 site and Lake Pape Natura 2000 site.
- To reduce the impact of direct and indirect threats on Bittern population by securing sustainable lake habitat management including improvements to existing and restoring of currently degraded breeding and feeding sites for Bittern.
- To monitor and evaluate the effects of the proposed lake habitat restoration measures on the species during the project and to feed this information into future site management plans and species management recommendations (guidelines).
- To establish the demonstration area for species conservation in Lake Engure in order to eliminate gaps in knowledge about the habitat requirements for Bittern among the nature conservationists. To provide the information about the species requirements, to generate the widely applicable and regionally tested habitat restoration methods and thus set the scene for further Bittern conservation actions in Latvia and Boreal region.
- To enhance the public understanding of the ecological, economic and social values of the coastal wetlands via explaining the ecosystem functions and services concept and raise support for the conservation of wetland dependent species such as Bittern. To support the integration of nature conservation concerns into the business sector.
Project is funded by: European Union LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity program and Latvian Environmental Protection Fund