Little Heron chick: 6. Reaction to threat

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern, Rescue | 1

The Little Heron (Butorides striatus) chick rescued from the Bukit Timah campus, responded to handling by lunging at the perceived threat. The sudden lunge with its large and pointed bill, together with the loud keek-keek-keek was enough to intimidate any predator (left). And for some time I was intimidated. The few times it’s bill hit bull’s eye caused only a harmless poke.

As the chick grew older, it lunged with an even larger gape (below). The sudden


lunging of the wide open bill, now with a larger gape accompanied by a loud scolding was an even more effective deterrent – and I can vouch for that.

Initially I was intimidated by the ferocity of the chick’s reaction. Gradually, I realised that the peck was harmless but the action still had its effect. Together with the large, flapping wings, the chick gave the appearance of being larger than it actually was (right). This, of course, is how a harmless chick deals with potential predators.

About a week later, when the bill was better developed, the bird simply lunged without and scolding. And when the bill hit its target, it was only a slight pinch rather than a poke. The image above was taken on 26th November, with the bird puffing up, neck held back and ready to lunge.

And since the early scolding, I have yet to hear a squeak from the bird, except when it was handled for ringing and weighing. And I cannot help but wonder why?

YC Wee
November 2007

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