Black Bittern the hunter

on 20th December 2006

As mentioned in the previous post, the Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) is a rather uncommon winter visitor to Singapore. It foraged around an artificial lake in Jurong in November 2006, appearing extremely tame and allowing groups of birders and photographers to view and to record.

The bird exhibited its skill in fishing with a sudden extension of its retracted long neck. The next moment it had a sea-bass fingerling (Lates calcarifer) firmly impaled in its upper mandible (above). In the image below the bird had caught a tilapia fry (Oreochromis mossambicus).

Once the bird successfully caught a fish, it quickly retreated under cover of the vegetation to enjoy its meal. In the case of a biggish fish, it adjusted it so that the head was swallowed first. This is to ensure that the spines of the fins would not damage the throat. Within a minute or two the fish was completely swallowed (below).

As with herons, the fish enters the gizzard where the flesh is stripped and passed on through the stomach while the bones and scales are compressed and finally ejected as a pellet.

Input and images by Meng and Melinda Chan, fish identification by Dr Khoo Hong Woo.

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

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