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The bittern and the cat

on 4th June 2017
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

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.

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