[Various bird calls and songs] [An American bittern stands in a field of reeds. Its head is held upright. It leans forward and makes some popping noises as it moves its head. It raises its head again and becomes mostly still, although its breathing is noticeable. It crouches down, but with its head still held upright, and walks several steps. It takes off in flight, and the camera follows it until it lands in a part of the field with tall grasses.] [Explore Macaulaylibrary.org]

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For camouflage to be effective, it must resemble the organism’s habitat. For birds that live in reeds and grasses, such as the American Bittern, this means long, vertical stripes. Bitterns further the effect of their camouflage by stretching their long necks upwards and swaying with the breeze like the reeds.

This video accompanies Chapter 4, Feathers and Plumages, Handbook of Bird Biology, 3rd Edition from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Wiley Publishing.

Recorded by Eric S Liner, Macaulay Library