Cattle Egret: A potential urban scavenger?

on 14th May 2007


Currently we have three urban scavengers – Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus), House Crow (Corvus splendens) and Rock Pigeon (Columba livia). Will the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) become the fourth in the near future?

In May 2007 Joseph Lai encountered a Cattle Egret waiting on tables for food-scraps at a Makan Centre in Kranji (left). He commented: “Sad sight of a new beggar on the block. It also begs the question why there are increasing numbers of people begging in town as well as in HDB estates.”

Cattle Egret is an example of avian adaptability in a changing world. In fact it has managed to colonise all six continents of the world.

The bird used to be a common winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore. In the 1950s and 1960s it was roaming the island, following cattle and catching insects that were disturbed by the latter. With the disappearance of cattle from our roads, the bird is still commonly seen. Most of these are free-flying birds from the Jurong Bird Park, often seen in western Singapore but spreading rapidly throughout the country. They are breeding in large numbers within the park, establishing its status as a feral species.

Now, it may have found a niche among the open-air food centres. There is always the chance that Cattle Egret may one day be a common sight competing for scrap of food in urban areas. Being a larger bird it can easily bully smaller birds in their quest for food. I have seen pigeons pecking the back of mynas when both were competing for left over scraps in an open-air café along Orchard Road.

Joseph Lai
May 2007

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. Is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow considered an urban scavenger? It hops around under tables at hawker centres too.

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