Little Egret fishing

on 10th January 2007

K.C. Tsang was standing on the banks of the Sungei Punggol one morning in November 2006 watching all the Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) massing along the banks very near to the water’s edge. Suddenly one of them took off, hovered over the surface of the water and within a split second plunged it long bill into the water and grabbed a fish.

He noticed that the birds always had the sun shining from the front of them in the morning, when hovering and fishing. There would thus be no shadow cast to alert the fish.

And K.C. added, “I though that these fellows feed mostly on insects among the grass. This has been observed most of the time. This is something new to me. Maybe a person with a video cam would be able to capture the whole episode.”

Our bird specialist R. Subaraj has this to say: “Little Egrets mainly feed by walking along the water’s edge or in the shallows, catching fish by stabbing at them with it’s long bill. The flying over the surface technique that you describe is therefore interesting and obviously an adaptation to take advantage of a situation.

“The egrets feeding on grasshoppers in the fields around Singapore are usually Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) (above). This is their natural behaviour. Intermediate (Mesophoyx intermedia) and Little will also do that from time to time… but it is not their normal way of feeding.”

Input by K.C. Tsang; image of Little Egret by KC and Cattle Egret by John Lynn.

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.

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