On 18th December, veterinary surgeon Dr Gloria Lee sent in images of a bittern for identification. The bird was sent to the AMK Veterinary Surgery at 31 Sembawang Road in an injured condition by Joseph Lim of the Nature Society (Singapore). Joseph has been caring for injured and displaced birds for years now, but this time the bittern had to be euthanised (left).
KC Tsang and R Subaraj helped identify the bird as a Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus). Subaraj was interested in background information as this “bittern is a rather scarce resident but easier to see in winter, when migrants are around.”
As Gloria has no information on the bird, I wrote to Joseph. Instead of getting information on one bittern, I received details of four…
1. Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) – On 15th November, a possible juvenile was picked up in a canal at ?Kent Ridge. Andrew Tay was contacted who collected it from Goh Si Guim and released it the next day.
2. Von Schrenck’s Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus) – The bird crashed onto a house at First Avenue. Joseph collected it on 30th November and together with Angie Ng, released the bird at Kranji, off the BBC Station.
3. The Cinnamon Bittern that Joseph brought to Gloria came from a lady who lives in Changi Lorong 105 on 16th December. She said that a fish-eating bird had crashed into their backyard. The injured bird was collected that very morning. It was a healthy bittern but with an injured wing. As Joe was too busy that day, he brought it to the Nature Society’s office and then to his home that night. The bird could feed itself on live fish. This was the most ferocious bitterns that Joe ever handled – it would puff up all its feathers to make itself bigger (almost ball-shaped), aimed its beak at Joe’s eyes and leaped up to strike with its neck extending despite a broken wing! Other bitterns that Joe came across would usually extend their long necks when trying to strike. The bittern was left at Gloria’s veterinary clinic the next day (17th Dec). Gloria called later to say that the bittern’s injuries were bad and she will have to ‘put it to sleep’ as it can no longer fly.
4. Coincidentally, Gloria had also treated a Cinnamon Bittern that day with a broken leg. Joe offered to look after the bird, like what he did with a Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) Gloria passed to him last July. Sadly this beautiful Cinnamon Bittern did not make it through the night. Gloria texted Joe to inform that bird was picked up at Bencoolen Street bus stop outside Sunshine Plaza.
Image by Dr Gloria Lee.