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Tasmania Celebrates Return of Elusive Bittern After 40 Years



Quick Smiles:

  • The beloved Australasian bittern, a bird species, has made a comeback to Tasmania after an absence of 40 years.
  • This return is credited to a successful environmental restoration project, which involved the removal of dams in 2012.
  • The reappearance of the bittern serves as a positive sign of the recovery of the lagoon ecosystem.

Described as elusive and often mistaken for a mythical creature, the main character of our tale is the treasured Australasian bittern. Marking an environmental victory, this bird is seen in Tasmania for the first time in four decades.

The bittern was sorely missed in the northern territories of Tasmania since 1964, due to a hydropower project that severely altered the unique local wetland ecosystem, known as the Lagoon of Islands. This initiative led to a sharp rise in water levels, flooding of surrounding islands, and destruction of the preferred habitat of the bittern.

But there’s reason to celebrate! After the decommissioning of the dams in 2012, we are now observing a significant milestone in the area’s recuperation.

The bittern is known for its distinct, eerie hoot, similar to the sound associated with a Bunyip, a mythical creature resembling a man-eating swamp monster. Aboriginal lore describes the Bunyip as resembling a seal or swimming dog, while some say it has a long neck and small head.

While the bittern is no myth, it shares the Bunyip’s nocturnal and mysterious nature. It is adept at camouflage, mimicking reeds by standing still with its beak pointing upwards, and its rough brown plumage and neck feathers enhancing the illusion.

Bird watchers from the Longford community, approximately 40 kilometers north of the bustling town of Bothwell, managed to document the bird’s call for the first time in 40 years, thanks to citizen science programs.


“I regard it as one of the highlights of my bird-watching experiences, and I’ve had many,” said bird expert Geoff Shannon, who managed to spot a pair of bittern chicks through his binoculars.

Once, the Lagoon of Islands was teeming with floating reed mats and tiny islands that served as ideal nesting, hiding, and hunting grounds for the bitterns.

The return of the bitterns signifies the restoration of a top member of the food chain. It is proof of the comprehensive recovery of the lagoon, from the smallest fish or amphibian to the largest bird. It’s a cause for ecological celebration.


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