Intermediate Egret breeding in Peninsular Malaysia [III]

This is a continuation of Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS’s earlier posts on the breeding of the Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia intermedia) HERE and HERE. The observations were made at a location in South Perak, Malaysia among padi fields with extensive wetlands.

“Had a chance to return to the Egret breeding site (above) today with my wife to get a better feel of the situation. This time prepared to get muddy, which we did.

“As this is the first observation of Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia intermedia) nesting/breeding in the Peninsular and I wanted to document it a little better.

“The egret breeding location is about 10-12 football fields in size. It comprises a muddy ‘wet lands’ with tall reeds and has padi fields nearby. It is densely packed with egrets and our collective estimate today was in excess of 1500 birds, possibly reaching 2000. My earlier estimate of 500 was inaccurate as I did not see the full range of the site. Of the Egrets nesting here 35% are Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), 30% Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and 20% Intermediate Egret. Another 10-15% of birds are chicks/juveniles/immature. There are 40-50 nesting Night Herons here are. Note that numbers here do not include bitterns, waterfowl, migratory waders, snipe, etc., which are also common here. (Estimates were made by both of us independently and then compared as well as by looking at serial images of the site and comparing species from the images.)

“80-90% of birds are either building nests, roosting or looking after juveniles. Nests are very closely situated to each other at 0.5-1 meters apart and the species are mixed (no apparent arrangement to the different Egrets or Night Herons). Nests of all species are built in the tall reeds 1.5-2.5 meters up, as there are few trees nearby. The nest and birds are not easy to view as the muddy/wet areas limit approach as well as the tall reeds obscure views.

“Identification is not as easy as expected due to the sheer volume of birds, constant movement (forage for juveniles, nest building, courtship, nest defence, etc.), feet are not always easy to see and breeding facial skin varies in the same species.”

“Above is a composite of the variations I saw in the Intermediate Egrets. There were very few with pure yellow bills.More than 95% has black bills with yellow facial skin. The classical breeding look here is the one with the dark red iris and darker yellow facial skin (top left image). Some had yellow iris but the nostril region had a darker pigment (above: bottom left image). Despite the “classical breeding look”, some birds that were incubating did not have red iris, see second image. Possibly the colour peaks and then changes.

Above are two Intermediate Egrets in ‘classical breeding plumage’.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
South Perak, Malaysia
11th April 2012
Equipment: Nikon D7000 SLR with Sigma AF OS Zoom 150-500mm, handheld

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