The bittern and the cat

Cat stalking Von S Bittern #1
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #1

“Even during my recent staycation in Joo Chiat area on 30th April, there was still a chance for a NatGeo moment with a rare Von Schrenck’s Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus) and a hungry cat,” wrote Jacob Tan Guanrui.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #2
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #2

The Von Schrenck’s Bittern is a rare migrant that is somewhat difficult to spot due to its small size and shyness. However, in an urban environment it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #3
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #3

The bittern was seen along a side road with a hungry cat stalking it. For some reason the cat did not attack the bittern but followed it as it walked slowly along the sidewalk.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #4
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #4

It was possible that the bittern was injured as it failed to fly off.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern $6
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #5

Migratory bitterns have been found in various parts of Singapore before, mostly injured due to collisions with glass windows LINK. This is because birds cannot see the glass as a barrier, thus flying through and getting injured or even killed.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #6
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #6

Night-flying migrants are particularly vulnerable, especially when the city with its many high-rise buildings with large glass windows are lighted at night.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #7
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #7

Such injuries are commoner than we realise – LINK 1, LINK 2 and LINK 3.

Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #8
Cat stalking Von Schrecks Bittern #8

Check out the Von Schrenck’s Bittern and the cat in the video below.

Did the cat eventually catch the bittern? “In the end I scared away the cat over a long distance as I had to leave the area” wrote Jacob. “The bittern did not seem to fly very well. I hope it was spared for that day.”

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai has this to say: “It certainly looks like Von Schrenck’s Bittern, especially with the amount of white in the primaries. This seems to be a transitional plumage between immature to adult. The difficulty for immatures of this species is ruling out the Cinnamon Bittern, in a photo. In life, the Von Schrenck’s is smaller in size.”

Jacob Tan Guanrui
Senior Teacher (Biology)
Commonwealth Secondary School
Singapore
11th May 2017

and

Subaraj Rajathurai
Wildlife Consultant
Singapore
3rd June 2017

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