Little Egret eating fruits?

Naveena Mohan’s video of the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) was taken in September 2012 at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the northern part of suburban Mumbai city in Maharashtra State, India.

The video clip shows the lone egret feeding on top of a tree “I wasn’t sure if it was catching insects or feeding on some flowers or seeds on top of the tree,” wrote Naveena. “It was interesting to watch it swallow whatever it was feeding on.”

However, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS has this to say: “Looks like the egret is actually eating fruit, especially from the way it shakes the neck to help the berries go down.”

According to Martinez-Vilalta & Motis (1992), Little Egret eats mainly small fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. Less commonly, it also eats small birds, amphibians, reptiles, spiders, molluscs and worms. There is no mention of fruits. If it can be shown that the egret actually takes fruits, it would be a new record.

Naveena Mohan & Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
September 2012

Martinez-Vilalta, A. & A. Motis, 1992. Family Ardeidae (Herons)]. In del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 1. Ostrich to ducks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 376-429.

4 Responses

  1. Amar-Singh HSS (Dato Dr)

    I looked at this video many times before I came to that opinion on fruit feeding as it is so unexpected. I considered it might be picking insects or caterpillars but it does look like the bird is selecting ripe fruit.

  2. Ng Wen Qing

    It was hard to tell if the egret was feeding on fruits, but I can say for certain that it had fed on insects, or at least an insect (from a single instance I could garner from the recording).

    At 1:26 – 1:27, a butterfly (or sorts) flies into the video frame and lands on a leaf, the egret notices and bows it’s head down slightly to look at it. The video pans out.

    At 1:28 – 1:30, the egret gets ready and slowly elongates its neck towards the insect’s direction

    At 1:30, the egret picks off the insect from the leaf lightning-quick.

    At 1:31 – 1:35, blurry, fluttering movements could be seen in the egret’s hold (e.g. at the end of its bill)

    • Lena

      I agree with Wen Qing that the egret had a butterfly at 1:30.

      I would also like to suggest that the neck-wobbling may also be the bird’s response when it spots prey, and is preparing to strike. I’ve seen various long-necked waders do this, and here’s a previous post where I videoed a Black Bittern wobbling its neck in preparation for a strike :

      Any other suggestions are most welcome!

    • Ng Wen Qing

      My apologies for the double replies, but I would like to add another observation of insect-feeding to my previous comment.

      After replaying the video several times with quality set to 720p HD, full screen; I noticed that the egret had been picking out the same kind of insect a couple of times – these instances can be viewed here:

      In addition to this, the egret can be seen pecking at the surface of leaves a couple of times, e.g. at 0:28-0:29 – probably picking out an insect.

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