bittern

bittern1
/bit"euhrn/, n.
1. any of several tawny brown herons that inhabit reedy marshes, as Botaurus lentiginosus (American bittern), of North America, and B. stellaris, of Europe.
2. any of several small herons of the genus Ixobrychus, as I. exilis (least bittern), of temperate and tropical North and South America.
[1510-20; bitter, bittor bittern + -n (perh. by assoc. with HERON), ME bito(u)r, butur, boto(u)r < AF bytore, AF, OF butor < VL *butitaurus, equiv. to *buti-, perh. to be identified with L buteo a species of hawk (see BUTEO) + L taurus bull (cited by Pliny as a name for a bird emitting a bellowing sound)]
bittern2
/bit"euhrn/, n. Chem.
a bitter solution remaining in salt making after the salt has crystallized out of seawater or brine, used as a source of bromides, iodides, and certain other salts.
[1675-85; var. of bittering; see BITTER, -ING1]

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Any of 12 species of solitary marsh birds (family Ardeidae), related to herons but having a shorter neck and a stouter body.

Most bitterns bear a camouflage pattern (streaks of variegated brown and buff) that enables them to hide by standing upright with bill pointed upward, imitating the reeds and grasses of their habitat. They feed on fish, frogs, crayfish, and other small swamp and marsh animals, which they spear with their sharp-pointed bills. Bitterns are found almost worldwide. The largest species grow to 30 in. (75 cm), the smallest to about 12–16 in. (30–40 cm).

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bird
      any of 12 species of solitary marsh birds of the subfamily Botaurinae, family Ardeidae (order Ciconiiformes), allied to the herons (heron) (subfamily Ardeinae) but with shorter neck and stouter body. Most bitterns bear a camouflage pattern—streaks of variegated brown and buff—which enables them to escape detection by standing upright with bill pointed upward, imitating the reeds and grasses of their habitat. They feed upon fish, frogs, crayfish, and other small swamp and marsh animals, which they spear with their sharp-pointed bills. Bitterns occur almost worldwide. There are four species of Botaurus and eight species of Ixobrychus.

      Bitterns of the genus Botaurus, occurring mainly in temperate regions, are large, and the sexes look alike. In spring the male utters booming calls audible for a considerable distance. The female undertakes nesting duties; assembling a crude mass of vegetation near water level, she lays four to six brownish eggs. The largest member of the genus is the Eurasian bittern (B. stellaris), to 75 centimetres (30 inches), ranging from the British Isles to southeastern Asia and occurring also in South Africa. The American bittern (B. lentiginosus), known locally as “stake driver” or “thunder pumper,” is slightly smaller. Other forms are the Australian bittern (B. poiciloptilus) and the South American, or pinnated, bittern (B. pinnatus).

      Bitterns of the genus Ixobrychus are small (30 to 40 cm, or about 12 to 16 in.). The sexes are unlike in appearance and share in the nesting duties. As many as 10 white, bluish, or greenish eggs are laid in a neat nest placed well above water level, sometimes in a tree. Superficially alike are the least bittern (I. exilis), of America; the little bittern (I. minutus), of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia; and the Chinese little, or yellow, bittern (I. sinensis). Rather similar are the variegated, or stripe-backed, bittern (I. involucris), of South America; the African dwarf bittern (I. sturmii); and, in southeastern Asia, Schrenk's little bittern (I. eurhythmus) and the cinnamon little, or chestnut, bittern (I. cinnamomeus). Somewhat larger is the black mangrove bittern (I. flavicollis), of southeastern Asia and Australia. This species shows plumelike development of the crown and neck feathers and is sometimes separated as Dupetor. For information on tiger bitterns, or tiger herons, see heron.

      very bitter-tasting solution that remains after evaporation and crystallization of sodium chloride (table salt) from brines (brine) and seawater. It contains in concentrated form the calcium and magnesium chlorides and sulfates, bromides, iodides, and other chemicals originally present in the brine. It is a commercial source of magnesium compounds—magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), magnesium chloride, and magnesium bromide. The chemical term is a modification of bitter.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:
, (Botaurus)


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bittern — Bit tern, n. [OE. bitoure, betore, bitter, fr. F. butor; of unknown origin.] (Zo[ o]l.) A wading bird of the genus {Botaurus}, allied to the herons, of various species. [1913 Webster] Note: The common European bittern is {Botaurus stellaris}. It… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • bittern — heron like bird, 13c., botor, from O.Fr. butor bittern, perhaps from Gallo Romance *butitaurus, from L. butionem bittern + taurus bull (see STEER (Cf. steer) (n.)); according to Pliny, so called because of its booming voice, but this seems… …   Etymology dictionary

  • bittern — bittern1 [bit′ərn] n. pl. bitterns or bittern [ME bitor < OFr butor < VL * butitaurus < L butio, bittern (< echoic base * bu ) + taurus, small bird that imitates the lowing of oxen, lit., bull: see STEER1] any of a subfamily… …   English World dictionary

  • bittern — ► NOUN ▪ a marshbird of the heron family, noted for the male s deep booming call. ORIGIN Old French butor, from Latin butio bittern + taurus bull (because of its call) …   English terms dictionary

  • BITTERN — (Heron; Heb. אֲנָפָה, anafah), mentioned among the unclean birds (Lev. 11:19; Deut. 14:18) and referring to birds of the family Ardeidae which are aquatic and marsh birds. Various species occur in Israel such as the white heron (Egretta alba)… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Bittern — Bit tern, n. [From {Bitter}, a.] 1. The brine which remains in salt works after the salt is concreted, having a bitter taste from the chloride of magnesium which it contains. [1913 Webster] 2. A very bitter compound of quassia, cocculus Indicus,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Bittern — Taxobox name = Bitterns image caption = Least Bittern regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves ordo = Ciconiiformes familia = Ardeidae subdivision ranks = Genera subdivision = Ixobrychus Billberg, 1828 Botaurus Stephens, 1819Bitterns… …   Wikipedia

  • bittern — [14] The Latin word for ‘bittern’ (a marsh bird) was būtiō, but by the time it reached Old French it had become butor. The discrepancy has been accounted for by proposing a Vulgar Latin intermediate *būtitaurus, literally ‘bittern bull’ (Latin… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • bittern — [14] The Latin word for ‘bittern’ (a marsh bird) was būtiō, but by the time it reached Old French it had become butor. The discrepancy has been accounted for by proposing a Vulgar Latin intermediate *būtitaurus, literally ‘bittern bull’ (Latin… …   Word origins

  • bittern — UK [ˈbɪtə(r)n] / US [ˈbɪtərn] noun [countable] Word forms bittern : singular bittern plural bitterns a bird that lives near water and makes a loud deep sound …   English dictionary

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