Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
two genera of birds of the family of herons and order of Ciconiiformes, the greater bittern (Botaurus) and lesser bittern(loxbrychus). They stay hidden in the under-growth along banks of reservoirs and in dangerous situations conceal themselves by stretching vertically among the plants. They nest on the ground, although the lesser bittern also nests in shrubs and trees, and in distinction from other herons they nest alone. There are four to nine eggs in each laying, and brooding lasts 28 to 30 days. They feed on fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. There are bitterns on every continent. Of the four species of Botaurus, the greater bittern(B. stellaris), which is also called water bull because of the loud spring cry of the male, is found in the USSR. Birds of this species are widely distributed south of the 58th to 64th parallel. Of the eight species of loxbrychus, three exist in the USSR—the lesser bittern (7. minutus), found east of the Altai, and two species in the Far East.