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Heron or Bittern? Philadelphia, PA

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I went to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, PA today.

I took a pic of this beauty. 

I was at first thinking heron, but then looking through field guides doubted myself and wondered if it's an American Bittern.

So, my top three guesses are: 1. Juvenile Green Heron, 2. Juvenile Black-crowned night heron and 3. American Bittern.

What are your thoughts?


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I agree with juvenile Green Heron, due ti the bill, coloration and streaking.

15 minutes ago, Mindy Smith said:

I think it is a juvenile green. Never seen a bittern in a tree.

I remember seeing an American Bittern in a tree only one time. I was surprised, but it was sitting there, just like it knew what it was doing! :classic_unsure:

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Thirded. Note the small size, dark green back, dark cap, and chestnut-brown sides. Juveniles are browner overall, have more streaking on their sides, buffy spots on the wings, and a slightly yellower bill.

  • How they differ from night-heron juveniles: Night-heron juveniles have thicker bills, lack the chestnut-brown neck, lack the dark cap, are streaked much more on their underparts including their belly, and have many more white (not buffy) spots on their back (not just their wings).
  • How they differ from American Bitterns: American Bitterns are way larger, have thicker necks at the base, have much more streaking (even little on the back), don’t have spots on their wings, and lack the dark cap and dark back.
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  • 4 weeks later...

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