Bittern heard making mating call at Amwell Nature Reserve

A bittern perching on wood
A nationwide conservation effort was launched to help boost the rare bird's numbers

A near-extinct breed of bird has been heard making a mating call following a nationwide conservation effort.

A "booming" mating call from a male Bittern was heard at Amwell Nature Reserve, in Great Amwell, Hertfordshire.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust said that in 1997 it was believed there were only 11 males left in the UK, which led to a conservation plan.

The charity said the call demonstrated the great progress by local conservationists.

Although a female has not yet responded to the call, which has been heard repeatedly since 5 March, it signifies the male bird is satisfied with its habitat and wants to attract a mate there.

Bitterns are shorter than their cousins, grey herons, with pale brown plumage that allows them to camouflage themselves in reeds.

The species was pushed to the brink of extinction in Victorian times when their reedbed homes were drained for reservoirs.

Between 2004 and 2010 the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust doubled the Bittern-suitable reedbeds in the region by 24 hectares.

As part of that work, the trust improved the reedbeds at Amwell Nature Reserve to encourage the birds to breed there.

Tim Hill, conservation manager at the trust, said: "Good news stories such as this one really do provide hope for the future of our ecosystem.

"We have worked hard to create more reedbed habitat for these elusive, scarce and shy birds."

He said the mating call "clearly demonstrates that we can reverse the terrible declines we are seeing in our native wildlife".

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