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Grey Heron foraging at night in Bedok canal?

on 14th November 2005

I was walking along Bedok canal at 11 pm one night when I spotted what looked like a large heron hunting in it. Couldn’t have been my eyes playing tricks on me because there was a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) nearby and it was definitely dwarfed by the larger heron. The large heron was distinctly whitish with black around the head and I thought around the wings as well, but it was dark. However, the neck was clearly whitish.

I went back to the canal the next night with a pair of binoculars but the large heron was not there. However, one of the foraging herons seemed to be a bit smaller and greyer than the usual Night Heron. I was wondering if that could be a Striated Heron (Butorides striatus). But then every bird that I spotted in the past had been a Night Heron.

I returned to the canal again a few nights later at 8.30 pm. And the large heron was there, standing on the side of the canal, on a set of steps. Its head was definitely moving, so it wasn’t asleep. Again, a Night Heron was nearby, this time perched on the railing.

A Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) does hunt along Bedok canal in the day. I have got used to seeing a solitary Grey Heron hunting along this canal on the rare occasions I walked by it during the day. I have seen it remaining there till twilight gloom sets in, though I have never seen it catch anything yet. I am not sure if it is the same bird I spotted foraging at night.

Contributed by Timothy Pwee

Timothy’s account provides excellent feedback on the feeding habits of our usually diurnal herons. Night Herons are regularly seen in canals and along waterways at night. We also have records of Striated Herons feeding in canals at night. However, I do not recall any prior local observations of Grey Herons feeding at night. Timothy’s sighting provides evidence that this species does take advantage of nocturnal low tides.

Not only does this observation adds to our local knowledge of the Grey Heron’s feeding habits, it also provides information about the bird’’s adaptation to our urban environment. What other species utilise our concrete waterways at night and also during the day? We have records of several feeding in canals/drains during the day but the suitability of these urban habitats depends on their design.

Input by our Bird Specialist, R Subaraj

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If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

One Response

  1. Every night, there are always several Butorides striata (syn. B. striatus – Striated/ Little Heron) fishing along the upstream sections of Sungei Pandan Canal. The canal there is dark & quiet at night. The same herons also fish there during the day.

    I’d seen Nycticorax nycticorax (Black-Crowned Night Heron) fishing at night inside Bukit Timah Canal near Balmoral Plaza, despite the traffic noise & bright streetlights.

    The common factor seems to be that there must be a dry concrete berm (simulating a shoreline or mudflat) for the herons to walk along, or stand & stare. I’ve yet to come across any heron fishing along deeper-water sections of canals at night.

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