Little Egrets’ Territorial Dispute

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern, Intraspecific | 3

“Of the white birds of Singapore, the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), also known as Snowy Egret, is the most common. Two sub-species can be found here (above). E. g. garzetta is widespread and considered as a common winter visitor, while E. g. nigripes is considered a rare visitor. These sub-species of the Little Egret are almost identical in appearance except for their feet: garzetta has completely yellow feet while nigripes has mostly black feet (below).

“In mid April 2011, I came across a solitary nigripes on the bank of a storm canal (below). Beside its blackish feet, I was impressed with its yellowish facial patch between its eyes and bill. Comparing images of the two sub-species, the dfference in facial patch between the eyes and bill appeared obvious and could be used to distinguish the two sub-species. For nigripes, it is intensely coloured in yellow while for the garzetta sub-species, the yellow colouration was duller and much subtler.

“In early December 2011, almost eight months later, I had another encounter with the nigripes sub-species in the same location (below). I had a hunch that it could be the same bird although this cannot be ascertained. This time, it was not alone. There were four other garzettas lined along the same stretch. They were all on the opposite bank with the nigripes on the extreme right of the flock. Spaced several metres apart from each other, they were stalking for fish.

“After observing them for a short time, the lone nigripes flew to land near two the garzettas (below). As the nigripes walked nearer, the situation became tense as a face-off occurred with the nearest garzetta. It was likely to be a territorial dispute as the nigripes tried to assert its territorial rights over the garzettas. With wings out-stretched, it took a sudden plunge at one of the garzettas, forcing it to run into the shallow water. The nigripes continued to be the aggressor; chasing after the garzetta as it moved along the sloping bank. Moments later, the tide turned, and roles were reversed with the chaser becoming the chased. After successfully defending its fishing territory, the chaser stopped chasing and turned to walk back. Peace returned.

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
24th December 2011

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3 Responses

  1. Tou Jing Yi

    Snowy Egret should not be an other name for Little Egret as it refers to another species in the New World (Egretta thula), it replaces the Little Egret in the New World where Little Egret rarely visits, on glance, they are extremely similar, with black thin bill and yellow toes on black feet, however their size is different (when viewed side by side), the breeding plumage also differs, there are other jizzy differences, but since Snowy is not found here, I am not particularly familiar with them.

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  2. […] has black toes) could occur as a vagrant here from Java and further south. A probable nigripes has been photographed in Singapore, and the toes of this bird look comparable. Wells notes that  “much scarcer [than […]

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  3. Dear Mr.Kwong Wai Chong

    I m wondering if I can make use of those picture – dancing egrets that you have posted on 24/12/2011 for some design reference . Would appreciate if you could contact me via email. Thanks

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