Little Heron chick: 11. Intelligence


When I fed the Little Heron ( Butorides striatus ) chick fish in a glass bottle, it tried desperately to peck at the fish from the outside. Obviously it could not know that it was looking at the fish from outside the glass. It kept on pecking at the glass side and getting frustrated with each try.

I managed to urge it to the perch whereby it could look down into the fish inside the bottle. It then picked at the fish one by one from above. However, as soon as a fish was caught, all the rest swam to the bottom. And the bird was not willing to submerge its head into the water to reach them. It was only willing to go as far as the base of its bill and no further.

I then placed the bottle of fish outside the cage and the bird encountered the same problem as it was standing on the cage bottom.

A perch inside the cage was provided in the form of a water-filled plastic container. It immediately perched on the edge of the container and looked into the fish contained in the bottle outside. It surveyed the bottle containing the fish for a while before making its next move (left).

It took some time to decide what to do but eventually it solved the problem. It poked its head between the wires of the cage and dipped its head into the water to get at the fish.

Looking at one of the images, I was surprised to learn that it dipped its head totally into the water to get at the fish swimming at the bottom.

This further proves that the Little Heron is an intelligent bird. An earlier post shows it’s “fishing” trick, using bread tossed into the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake by visitors to do its very own fishing.

YC Wee
December 2007

2 Responses

  1. andy

    This intelligence seen is similar to an incident I witnessed about 2 years ago before the East Coast Park lagoon was renovated to become the Ski Park it now is. Before the renovation, the lagoon had a rather low water level and one could walk on the ‘beach’ there.

    Naturally, it attracted a lot of water birds because there were a good number of fish habiting the lagoon. I had brought a loaf of bread to feed the tilapia in the water. Along came a little heron who quietly observed the fish feeding on the bread squares near the water’s edge but out of reach.

    What it did then was beyond any expectation…it picked up a piece of bread and broke it into a smaller piece which it then placed in the water near the water’s edge within it’s reach and waited. Fish came to nibble at the piece and it striked catching a fish. It went on using this fishing technique which it improvised on the spot.


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