“The Yellow Bittern (Ixobrycbus sinensis) was fishing some short distance in front of me. It was standing motionless on a floating Waterlily (Nymphaea hybrid) leaf, waiting patiently for a fish to come within striking distance.
“The bird’s body is built like a complete self-propelled spearing machine, the bill being the tip of the spear which is razor sharp.
“When the fish came within hitting distance, the bird was able to gather its whole body to the task of extending, shooting forward the whole neck section and the head, like a heat seeking missile guided by the two forward looking eyes all the time focused on the target.
“After spearing the fish (a Blue Gourami) the bird needs to maneuver it in such a way that the fish is swallowed head first. This is a must for all fish-eating birds, otherwise the backward pointing spines will cause serious damage to the bird’s throat. In the best case scenario the backward pointing spines of the fish will prevent it from being swallowed by the bird.
“The fish, being mortally wounded and unable to struggle, was picked up head first and maneuvered in such a way that it gets pushed into the soft pouch under the bird’s bill.
“It is amazing to see that the fish does not slip out of the bird’s bill.
“The bird lifts up its head to get the fish into its gullet.
“This is about the final moments when the fish gets fully swallowed, the bird points its head straight up to straighten the throat so that the fish gets smoothly down.
“The fish finally disappeared inside the bird.
“All these took the bird about 20 minutes to complete. It has to be very careful how it swallows the fish. Also the bird’s digestive juices are very strong, being able to dissolved bones, scales and other parts, to finally excreted them as a thick white fluid,
“Equipment used: Nikkor 500mm f/4, TC-20E III, Nikon1 V2.”
Satay By The Bay
18th January 2016