Mating of Grey Herons

“On the afternoon of 30th August 2009, after the rain had stopped, an unusual gathering of Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) was observed. On this occasion, there were at least eight birds when normally there was one or two observed at this site. Furthermore, these birds were in their breeding plumage with richer-coloured bills and pinkish-coloured legs. To make things more exciting, a few birds could be seen fetching nesting materials to the crown of trees on both sides of the river’s bank.

“An exciting event unfolded when a pair of Grey Herons put on a show and mated. The action from mounting to separation was swift: 18 seconds as recorded by the digital images taken (below). The mating couple used their large wings to balance themselves while in the act. The male held onto the female at her wings while the female held tightly to the perch.

The climax of the act could be seen when the female dipped its head well below her feet (below right).

“Could this be the start of a new heronry, which is rare in Singapore? It was not to be. One week later, the site was all quiet with no signs of the breeding Grey Herons. I returned to the site a few other times, but could not locate the breeding herons.

“During the day of documentation, crows could be seen harassing the breeding birds. However, the breeding herons stood their ground (on the trees) and were not put off by the crows’ bullying. Further harassment by crows could be the reason for these herons abandoning the site.

“Hopefully, these breeding Grey Herons have found a new heronry with more conducive environment for carrying on their breeding activities. I look forward to the day when there are opportunities for us to observe heronries and offspring from these majestic birds.”

Kwong Wai Chong
18th November 2009

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