Birds That Glow in the DarkBy
Did you know — I did not — that the American Bittern glows in the dark?
I was much interested with an account I heard the other day of a bird, a species of heron. I believe it is called by Wilson, in his Ornithology, the Great American Bittern; but, what is very extraordinary, he omits to mention a most interesting and remarkable circumstance attending it, which is, that it has the power of emitting a light from its breast, equal to the light of a common torch, which illuminates the water, so as to enable it to discover its prey. As this circumstance is not mentioned by any of the naturalists that I have ever read, I had a difficulty in believing the fact, and took some trouble to ascertain the truth, which has been confirmed to me by several gentlemen….
This account, received by Mrs. C. Hackney from a Philadelphia correspondent in 1828, was deemed sufficiently noteworthy to be published in the Magazine of Natural History, and drew comment the following March from R.A. Bridgewater, who suggested that the light was generated “possibly by some electrical operation.” Lesson, on the other hand, wondered whether it might be produced “de son estomac.”
Not sure why, if that’s true, my photo of the bird above, from Reifel Refuge a couple of years ago, should be so dark and blurry.