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CHINESE POND-HERON – PLUMAGE TRANSITION

on 2nd June 2013

“Between March to May 2013, regular monitoring of a small flock of Chinese Pond-herons (Ardeola bacchus) in Singapore enabled me to witness their gradual plumage transition from non-breeding to breeding. When they are at rest or on the lookout, they may be perched high up on the branches of trees (above, non-breeding plumage).

“Most of the time, they would be on the ground amongst the grass, very much engrossed in the need to feed (above, non-breeding plumage).

“The onset of breeding plumage was first noticed in April, when reddish-brown feathers began to appear on the head and neck, just as black feathers began to sprout on its back. This intermediate plumage made the pond-heron look rather awkward, just like an adolescent prior to full adulthood (above, below).

“Eventually, when full breeding plumage is attained, all traces of grayish feathers from yesteryear are no more. A blanket of fine, black feathers cascades over its untainted white wings, while its head, neck and breast are adorned with rich reddish-brown. Finally, a fashion accessory which added the finishing touch to its breeding splendour is a stylish, pinkish nape plume (below).

“Vanity, however, cannot take precedence over energy demands and nutritional needs. It was most amusing to watch the foraging and feeding antics of the Pond Heron. At times, its neck would be fully extended and upright, just like a giraffe strolling across the savannah (below).

“In contrast, its neck could also be completely retracted, as it crouches like a leopard in ambush among the bushes (below).

Dr. Leong Tzi Ming
Singapore
22nd May 2013

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

One Response

  1. Dear Dr Ming
    I wonder if you have any records of Chinese Pond Heron arriving full summer plumage in autumn and if so for ow long it is retained.
    Recently the British Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted a CPH record as first for Britain. It arrived on the east coast of England on Oct 30th 2004 and was seen again in Hampshire still in retained FSP on one date Nov 13th before flying E. I am writing the account for the Hampshire Bird report. The northern hemisphere weather for October 2004 would have supported long-distance vagrancy (imo) but the FSH has previosuly been a stumbling block. Any data you have on this subject would be welcome

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