“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.
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.
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.
It was possible that the bittern was injured as it failed to fly off.
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.
Night-flying migrants are particularly vulnerable, especially when the city with its many high-rise buildings with large glass windows are lighted at night.
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
11th May 2017
3rd June 2017