Upper parts ochre-yellow, variegated with black; beneath paler, with oblong dusky streaks.
A. stellaris, Temm. Man. d'Orn. torn. 11. p. 580. Bittern, Mont. Orn. Diet. Selb. Must. vol. 11. p. 30. pl. 8. Bew. Brit. Birds, vol. 11. p. 22.
Entire length two feet six inches six lines: length of the bill (from the forehead) three inches, (from the gape) four inches; of the tarsus three inches eleven lines; of the middle toe four inches six lines; of the tail four inches six lines; from the carpus to the end of the wing one foot: breadth, wings extended, three feet nine inches.
Crown of the head, and a broad streak or moustache from the corners of the mouth, black; neck-feathers loose and elongated, capable of being raised and depressed at will, ochre-yellow, with brown zigzag transverse lines on the sides, and long streaks and spots of reddish brown in front: all the upper parts of the body ochre-yellow tinged with orange-red, with a large dusky spot in the middle of each feather; primary and secondary quills, primary coverts, and spurious winglet, ferruginous, with transverse bars of blackish brown; rest of the coverts and scapulars, mottled like the back with ochre-yellow and zigzag dusky lines: under parts of the same colour as above but paler, with large oblong longitudinal dusky streaks: upper mandible brown, passing into yellow at the edges; lower mandible, lore, orbits, and feet, greenish yellow; irides bright gamboge-yellow. (Egg). Of a uniform light olive-brown: long. diam. two inches two lines; trans, diam. one inch six lines.
Occasionally met with in extensive marshes, as well as on the borders of rivers and lakes, but not so abundant as formerly. Is partial to sedge and reedy situations. Breeds in such spots, constructing a nest of rushes and other coarse plants. Lays four or five eggs. During the Spring the male utters a singular bellowing note which may be heard to a considerable distance. Feeds on small fish and reptiles, as well as on aquatic worms and insects.