Pacific Reef Egret: Foot tapping

on 1st February 2011

“On the morning of 25th January 2011, I was delighted to observe a Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra, dark morph) perched on the railings along the Telok Kurau canal (above left). It was patiently watching and waiting for the receding tide, with eager anticipation of breakfast. Looking back, it has been almost three years since I first noticed a solo Pacific Reef Egret fishing along this concrete ‘river’ on the 15th February 2008, and my instinct seems to tell me that this might be the very same bird that I’m witnessing.

“When it finally swooped down to get its feet wet in the shallow waters, I carefully stalked the bird with my camera as it silently stalked its aquatic prey (above right). However, I was intrigued to see that it frequently employed the ‘foot tapping’ technique while hunting. This strategy was predominantly practiced at accumulations of submerged leaves, whereby one foot is inserted into/under this leaf pile and tapped repeatedly in quick succession to expose any fish or crustacean that may be hiding therein.

“On a number of occasions, I have previously observed this foot tapping behaviour in Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) along the same canal at low tide, with much hunting success (left). Hence, I wondered if such a foraging behaviour could have been progressively learnt by the Pacific Reef Egret, as both species regularly share the same waterway. Nevertheless, I always find this foot tapping behaviour amusing to watch, as it brings to mind the catchy instrumental, ‘Foot Tapper’ (released by The Shadows in 1963). Alternatively, it might also be appropriate to term this behaviour as the ‘Riverdance’.”

Dr Leong Tzi Ming
25th January 2011

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.

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