BITTERN, a genus of Wading Birds, belonging to the family Ardeidee, comprising several species closely allied to the Herons, from which they differ chiefly in their shorter neck, the back of which is covered with down, and the front with long feathers, which can be raised at pleasure. They are solitary birds, frequenting countries possessing extensive swamps and marshy grounds, remaining at rest by day, concealed among the reeds and rushes of their haunts, and seeking their food, which consists of fish, reptiles, insects, and small quadrupeds, in the twilight. The Common Bittern (Bole urns stellaris) is nearly as large as the heron, and is widely distributed over the eastern hemisphere. Formerly it was common in Britain, but the extensive drainage of late years has greatly diminished its numbers, and it is now a permanent resident only in the fen districts of England. The bittern in the days of falconry was strictly preserved, and afforded excellent sport. It sits crouching on the ground during the day, with its bill pointing in the air, a position from which it is not easily roused, and even when it takes wing, its flight is-neither swift nor long sustained. When wounded it requires to be approached with caution, as it will then attack either man or dog with its long sharp bill and its acute claws. It builds a rude nest among the reeds and flags, out of the materials which surround it, and the female lays four or five eggs of a uniform dusky brown. During the breeding season it utters a booming noise, from which it probably derives its generic name, Botaurus, and which has made it in many places an object of superstitious dread. Its plumage for the most part is of a pale buff colour, rayed and speckled with black and reddish brown. The American Bittern (Botauncs lentiginosits) is somewhat smaller than the European species, and is found throughout the central and southern portions of North America, where it forms an article of food. It also occurs in Britain as an occasional straggler.