Grey Heron – tongue, feeding behaviour

on 15th December 2017

Yellow Bittern-1a-Tambun, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia-30th October 2017

“I saw an interesting behaviour today of the use of the tongue by bitterns and herons. I first spotted a Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) doing this (above).

“This bird alerted me to behaviour I was not observing closely, bill/tongue cleaning post feeding. Best seen in the video above where there 3 episodes of fish feeding all followed by bill/tongue cleaning.

“Soon after I spotted a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea jouyi). I was quite close to the Grey Heron (in a vehicle) and had only moments to respond and decided on a burst of images (4 images below), as setting up video would have missed the behaviour. The bird had just swallowed a fish prey and then proceeded to rub the tongue over the inside of the bill numerous times. This has been seen before and considered as a ‘bill cleaning’ activity. But I wonder if it could also be a ‘tongue cleaning’ activity?

HeronGr-tongue [AmarSingh] 1

“I was using a Lexar XQD card with can take images at 10 fps and I took 80. I merged 70 into a gif to show the behaviour HERE (hope this plays on Facebook as YouTube does not allow uploading of Gifs).

HeronGr-tongue [AmarSingh] 2

“I had not realised that the tongue of the Grey Heron is so long and mobile. Having had a close view I could not see any obvious barbs (some fish-eating birds have tongues with rear-directed hooks to prevent wriggling fish from slipping out). But if you look carefully at the last two images below, you will notice that the tongue broadens out midway with side ‘out-pouching’. I wonder if barbs are located at the base of this out-pouching?

HeronGr-tongue [AmarSingh] 3

“Note: I had previously post a bill cleaning activity using sticks – see: HERE

HeronGr-tongue [AmarSingh] 4

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
30th October 2017

Location: Tambun, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Secondary growth near limestone hills, ex-mining pools

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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