Bitterns are a classification of birds in the heron family, Ardeidae, a family of wading birds. Species named bitterns tend to be the shorter-necked, often more secretive members of this family. They were called hæferblæte in Old English; the word "bittern" came to English from Old French butor, itself from Gallo-Roman butitaurus, a compound of Latin būtiō and taurus. Bitterns form a monophyletic subfamily in the heron family, the Botaurinae.
The genus Ixobrychus contains mainly small species:
- Little bittern, Ixobrychus minutus
- Australian little bittern, Ixobrychus dubius
- New Zealand little bittern, Ixobrychus novaezelandiae (extinct)
- Cinnamon bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
- Stripe-backed bittern, Ixobrychus involucris
- Least bittern, Ixobrychus exilis
- Yellow bittern, Ixobrychus sinensis
- Schrenck's bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus
- Dwarf bittern, Ixobrychus sturmii
- Black bittern, Ixobrychus flavicollis
The genus Botaurus is the larger bitterns:
- American bittern, Botaurus lentiginosa.
- Eurasian bittern or great bittern, Botaurus stellaris
- South American bittern, Botaurus pinnatus
- Australasian bittern, Botaurus poiciloptilus
- Botaurus hibbardi (fossil)
The genus Zebrilus includes only one species:
- Zigzag heron (or properly Zigzag bittern), Zebrilus undulatus
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- Joseph P. Pickett et al., ed. (2000). "Bittern". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed. ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved 2006-07-04.
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