“A common winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore, the Cattle Egret [now known as Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)] is often found in open fields where they forage for food.
“I found a pair of Eastern Cattle Egrets foraging by a canal in late February 2013. One was still completely white in its winter dress, while the other had shades of orange-buff on its head, neck and back (above). As I was observing them, the bird that was assuming breeding plumage suddenly stood fully upright – in full alert. It must have caught sight of a potential prey in the grassy terrain that was sloping upwards. It approached its target in a comical walk uphill before slowing to a halt to fix its gaze into the base of the tall grass.
“It must have excellent eyesight as it soon caught a frog from the very dense cover of vegetation. The egret processed the frog with just one sharp twist in its mid section. The frog was then simply held in its bill before it was positioned for swallowing – head first (above and below).
“The frog seemed momentarily stuck in the the egret’s throat immediately after the frog was swallowed. The egret had to gape and adopt an awkward stance with slight movement and twists to its neck. These actions, probably, helped to ingest the large prey down its throat.
The above movie is made from the sequence of still images to better illustrate the entire episode from hunting to swallowing. Note how the Eastern Cattle Egret hunt, catch and eat a frog. The frog was swallowed whole.
Kwong Wai Chong
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