Nesting Grey Herons: 9. Conflict

“It was inevitable that some conflicts will occur between the Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) in the heronry. With a high concentration of herons nesting close to each other within the confines of the heronry, competition for space can be fierce. Choice perching spots and areas close to nests can become bones of contention.

“In the sequence of images, Heron A, which was in full breeding plumage, flew in and landed not far from an active nest (top left). Heron B was sitting in its nest, probably incubating eggs. The invisible boundary of Heron B’s comfort zone must have been breached. The crest on Heron B’s crown was erected as it stood up from its nest and stared at Heron A. It began to confront Heron A; approaching slowly when it began, but gaining speed just as it reached the intruding heron. Heron A was alert and ready (above right). It had raised its crest and its wings were opened in anticipation. Heron B was in full stretch as it took a mighty leap to lunge and charge at its opponent. As it screamed out its battle cry, its neck was fully extended and its wings were fully opened. Heron A reacted by soaring straight up into the air with only a single flap of its wings (below left, centre).

“Please note that the last image was a stitched composite of 2 continuous images that were taken just a split second apart. The stitched image serves to illustrate the extent of the height gained (above right). Heron A had soared so high and so fast in that image that only the tip of Heron B’s bill was captured. The showdown ended with Heron A avoiding a fight by flying away without a scathe and Heron B returning to tend to its nest.

“Having observed some nests which were just metres apart, I am puzzled how Grey Herons managed to minimise conflict. They seemed to recognise and tolerate their immediate neighbours, but may feel offended by other herons that strayed too near their nests.”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
5th April 2011

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