BRITAIN'S loudest bird, the bittern, has been heard booming on the Isle of Wight for the first time.

The distinctive foghorn-like mating call of the male bittern has sounded at RSPB Brading Marshes this spring — prompting great excitement among conservationists.

It indicates the species is continuing to recover and that the recently restored wetland is flourishing.

RSPB Brading Marshes warden Keith Ballard said: "Hearing a booming bittern on a wetland reserve is like receiving a Michelin star as a restaurant. It’s one of the highest marks of success we could hope for.

"Bitterns have very selective habitat needs, and to attract them you need a truly thriving ecosystem. The work we have done to manage the reserve for insects, fish, reptiles and mammals, as well as birds, now means we have one of the most UK’s most sensitive species choosing the Isle of Wight as its home."

Bitterns are highly secretive wetland birds and live within dense stands of reed, making them difficult to survey. Scientists count bitterns by listening for the male’s booming mating call.

The UK bittern population had fallen to just 11 booming males in 1997 but, thanks to intensive conservation efforts, the population is now recovering.

However, there are still less than 200 bitterns at fewer than 75 UK sites, making the discovery of male trying to breed on the Isle of Wight particularly remarkable.

The RSPB hopes the booming bittern’s mating call will attract a female, and they will successfully breed on the reserve — another first for the Island.

If successful, they will join three other new wetland species — the marsh harrier, little egret and great crested grebe — to successfully breed at the reserve.

RSPB staff will monitor the bird over the coming weeks.