Black Bittern stalking quarry

Lena Chow had an exciting encounter with a Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) on the afternoon of 31st December 2010. The bittern was stalking its quarry, moving stealthily from dry land to the water edge (1st video). It took a crouched posture, moving very slowly and at times standing still. The throat area inflated and the tail flapped downwards in a somewhat circular motion, alternating clockwise and anticlockwise as the bird stalked its prey (2nd video).

The tongue of the bittern was seen flicking out a number of times as it moved down to the water edge (left).

The Black Bittern is crepuscular and nocturnal, meaning that it is active at dusk and dawn, rather than in total darkness or in daylight. During the day when it is raining and the sky is overcast, it also becomes active. In this particular instance, the rain had just stopped when the bittern appeared.

8 Responses

    • Gretchen

      The tail maneuvering is extremely interesting. I never noticed this in a hunting egret or heron before, but will look for it now! I suppose TJY says it must have a hunting purpose, though it is a little hard to see exactly how it will attract prey.

      • Tou Jing Yi

        hi Gretchen,

        A potential theory is the moving tail will cast a shadow onto the water that attracts prey here that had thought that the shadow were some moving small fish or insects?

        The Little Heron will use leaf, bread or other material to attract the prey.

        Another heron outside this region, I forgotten the name, will cast a round shadow using its wing and hide its head inside, as the shade attracts fish and it sees the water better with the wings blocking the glare from the sun.

        Herons are very interesting as different species tend to use different techniques to help them catch prey, of course, it is probably still uncertain how the tail wagging help in this case.

  1. Tou Jing Yi

    The tail may be a kind of behavior to attract prey, different species of herons used different tactics, it may be reflected into the water as a fish swimming in circles?? perhaps?

    I was still hoping to find this species around, had been trying many times to spot this, but best I get were always Yellow and Cinnamons. Should not be that rare but definitely a hard one to meet.

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