Purple Heron in comfort mode

on 16th November 2009

The Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is a common resident in Singapore. Formerly more widespread, the population decline has been attributed to loss of nesting grounds and human disturbances.

KN Pan’s study of the heron in comfort behaviour shows it exposing the inner wing feathers to the sun for about five minutes before preening the feathers (above). Preening takes up a substantial amount of time as the bird needs to keep the feathers in top form. This is done with the aid of the massive bill.

Where the bill cannot reach, like around the head, the extremely long middle toe comes into play. Note that the leg is raised from under the wing to reach the head, characteristic of terrestrial birds (left). Among aboreal birds, the leg is extended over the wing to reach the head, as seen in Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica).

According to our bird specialist R Subaraj, the Purple Heron above is not a full adult. Based on the colour of the wings and back, it is slowly becoming one.

Wang, L.K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1-179.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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

3 Responses

  1. Hello,

    I spotted a bird today and had been searching for its identity and found it to be most likely a bittern. I chanced on your blog and wonder if you are able to provide any advice on how to handle an injured bittern?

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