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Rare bittern heard for first time on Isle of Wight
Bitterns are notoriously difficult to survey on wetlands because they spend much of their time in the dense reed.
Foghorn-like mating call suggests the bird is looking for a mate

Conservationists on the Isle of Wight have heard the distinct mating cry of the UK’s rarest birds, the bittern, for the first time.

Staff at RSPB Brading Marshes described hearing the call as “like receiving a Michelin star as a restaurant”.

“It’s one of the highest marks of success we could hope for,” explained RSPB warden Keith Ballard. “Bitterns have very selective habitat needs, and to attract them you need a truly thriving ecosystem.”

Bitterns are notoriously difficult to survey on wetlands because they spend much of their time in the dense reed. To measure their numbers, scientists listen out for the male’s foghorn-like call, which indicates that it is looking for a mate.

In 1997, bittern numbers in the UK fell to just 11 males. Conservation efforts have aided their recovery, but today there are still no more than 200 bitterns at less than 75 conservation sites.

Conservationists are particularly excited about this recent discovery because the presence of bitterns is considered one of the best measures of successful wetland management.

The RSPB Brading Marshes reserve has already seen three new wetland species successfully breed on the island - the little egret, marsh harrier and great crested globe. Staff hope the bittern’s mating call will attract a female and that they too will successfully breed.

“The work we have done to manage the reserve for insects, fish, reptiles and mammals, as well as birds, now means we have one of the most UK’s most sensitive species choosing the Isle of Wight as its home,” Mr Ballard added. 

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