The endangered bittern- a secretive bird more likely to be heard for its booming calls than be seen - has had a marvelous year from a conservation standpoint, and is returning in high numbers to England and Wales. Indeed, bitterns are so secretive-- and their call so distinctive-- that they are counted by listening for the males calling!

Not much has been done on the cognition and behaviour of this secretive species, but it is known that it can find a predator's head by the structural relationship between "head" and "body." This conclusion was reached by a researcher who approached a bittern (which attacked his head), and then approached again with shoulders hunched and jacket covering his head while holding a fake head in the position of his head. The bittern attacked the fake head. You just can't make this stuff up.


Many thanks to Elliott Bannan for sending along this marvelous conservation success story!