Britain’s loudest bird is making a comeback in London

It’s no secret that London is a noisy place. From the constant trundle of traffic and trains to the raucous laughter of those city boys standing outside pubs, it’s hard to get any peace and quiet in the city centre. 

And a new sound means the volume of the city is only being turned up… but this time, it’s the sound of nature. That’s because the bittern – the loudest bird in Britain – has apparently been making a gradual comeback in the capital. 

A bittern, for any non-twitchers in the house, is a kind of heron. They have been described as the loudest birds in Britain, with males able to make a booming sound during the springtime that’s audible nearly five kilometres away. Yep, five kilometres! That’s one noisy bird.

Given how much noise they make, however, bitterns are pretty hard to spot. Not only are they well-camouflaged, but they need large, undisturbed reed beds in order to breed and hunt. And those kinds of habitats are hard to come by in London. 

The RSPB website goes as far as describing them as ‘secretive birds’, which have ‘pale, buff-brown plumage’ and fly on ‘broad, rounded, bowed wings.’ 

Thankfully, reed beds are in abundance at the London Wetland Centre, which opened in Barnes back in 2000. At the time there were only 30 known breeding pairs of bitterns in the UK. As reported by the BBC, that number has apparently since risen to over 200. 

Adam Salmon, the reserve manager, told the BBC: ‘With its numbers steadily rising, the bittern is a true flagship species for wetland conservation – proving that if we work to protect and restore precious habitats we can turn the tide on extinction.’

And it’s not just bitterns that are making an exciting return. London Wetland Centre has also introduced three common white storks in the hopes they’ll breed. 

Wondering how you might identify the call of a bittern? Have a listen on British Birdsongs here.  

Time Out’s take

There ain’t much good environmental news at the mo, so it’s refreshing to see some positive changes happening with nature in London. To get more out of London’s nature, check out these hidden gardens and green spaces, these Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty near London to discover nature and the city’s seven prettiest walks.

Did you see that London is officially one of the safest cities in the world?

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