Black Bittern

The Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) is a rather uncommon winter visitor to Singapore. Thus when it appeared in Jurong around early November 2006, birders as well as photographers were all there to witness and to record its presence.

The bird is reported to rarely appear by day except during rainy periods or when the sky is overcast. The images shown here were taken after a shower when the sky was overcast. But on other days the bird was always around – morning, noon and evening, and I assume, even at night. The area was well shaded by trees and thus even at the height of noon it was dimly lit.

The bittern was seen foraging around the lake fringe (above), staying on the banks or flying low from one location to another. It stayed motionless for long periods at the water’s edge or in the shallow water, waiting for a fish to swim close by. Then it suddenly extended its long neck and either grabbed or speared the prey with its bill (below).

The image below shows the bird with a catfish fry held firmly in its bill.

The bird also moved into the shallow water, its body parallel to the water surface, its neck fully extended and its bill pointing straight ahead. Movement was extremely slow, one foot after the other. It always remained around the shallow water and with the sun always in front, so that it does not cast any shadow and alert the fish in the water.

The frustratingly slow pace of the bird tested the patience of birders and photographers alike, who were gathered to witness some action. But when the action came, it came fast and rapid…

Input and images by Meng and Melinda Chan.

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