Little Grebe Processing A Dragonfly

“The Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), also known as Dabchick, is not a duck. It belongs to the family of grebes. Grebes are excellent swimmers and divers that are capable of catching fish by diving into water.

“It is challenging to observe the Little Grebes in Singapore. They can only be found in Singapore Quarry and Lorong Halus and are often far from view. Moreover, they will dive and disappear into the water at the slightest disturbance and surface some distance away. After many visits, some action was finally observed during a recent visit to the pond at Lorong Halus. A large dragonfly was caught and processed by a Little Grebe.

“After the dragonfly was caught, the grebe manipulated it in its bill and was seen dipping it in the water. Either it was drowning the dragonfly, immobilising it, or washing it in the water. This was carried out intensely with water splashing high into the air occasionally due to the impact of the bill on the water. At times, the prey was momentarily left floating on the surface of the water before being picked up by the grebe again. After half a minute of processing, the grebe raised its head to gulp down the prey whole complete with wings still intact.

“The action continued when its head was returning to its normal posture. The grebe turned its head and gave it a few sudden flicks. The forceful side-to-side movement caused water to shoot out from its bill and was sprayed into the air. Was this action to rid the prey of excess water, or perhaps to help ingest the prey further into its gullet?”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
7th November 2011

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