Grey Heron fishing: The one that didn’t get away

on 16th October 2007

The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) is found around waters, be they fresh, brackish or salt. You can usually see them near rivers, lakes, marshes, mudflats, mangroves and rice fields. The bird feeds mainly on fish, although it also takes aquatic insects, amphibians, reptiles, some birds and even small rodents.

Its feeding time varies with location, either during the day (morning and evening) or at night or around dusk. It is usually a solitary feeder, fiercely defending its territory, although there are cases of group feeding.

Lee Tiah Khee’s dramatic images show how one bird tried to catch a fish but failed in its initial attempt. Undeterred, it succeeded in its subsequent attempt.


Like most herons, the Grey is a passive feeder, staying still for long periods or moving slowly in the water. The bird was spotted standing still in the shallow water waiting for prey. Apparently it spotted a fish approaching. When it was within range, the bird made a lightning attack, lunging its sharp bill into the wate (above). But it was not fast or accurate enough. The fish narrowly escaped by jumping out of the water (below).


In a flash the bird had its head out of the water and spotted the fish swimming away. In a split second it lunged at it again and succeeded the second time (below).


It seized the fish with its bill and picked it out of the water (above right). As it managed to catch it by the head, there was no need to reposition it before swallowing it whole (below).


As in the case of kingfishers, owls and bee-eaters, the indigestible parts of the prey are eventually regurgitated in the form of pellets…

Lee Tiah Kheee
October 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.

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