Black Bittern’s hunting behaviour – The full story

An earlier post by Jeremiah Loei was accompanied by a video clip of the Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) in its hunting mode. It showed the bittern standing at the water edge totally motionless except for its flapping tail. This was followed by another, highlighting the bittern’s strange behaviour. Subsequent to these two postings, a third video surfaced showing a bittern claiming its prize.

It so happened that the three videos were documented at the same site (Baker Street, Singapore). The current post provides the complete story of the Black Bittern’s hunting behaviour, illustrated by the three videos in their proper sequence.

The video below shows the Black Bittern’s initial behaviour as it slowly moves towards the water edge. Subaraj Rajathurai was right when he commented that this strange behaviour was somehow related to its hunting strategy.

Amar-Singh’s internet search provides more insight into the bittern’s behaviour. The swaying of the bittern as captured by the video may well be part of the foraging technique, “to see past the glare from the surface of the water, or to warm up its muscles for a quick strike” – LINK. The prey was yet to be sighted at this stage.

When the bittern reached the water edge, it remained motionless except for its slow, flapping tail moving in a circular motion (video below). Taking a crouched posture, it patiently waited for the prey to approach close enough for it to use its spear-like bill.

The final video (below) shows the bittern being rewarded for its patience when the prey came within striking distance. It suddenly lunged at it and with the snakehead clamped between its mandibles, it quickly moved into the undergrowth to enjoy its meal at leisure.

Jeremiah Loei (videographer)
Subaraj Rajathurai (consultant)
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS (online researcher)
YC Wee (coordinator).
Singapore & Malaysia
17th February 2019

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behaviour through photography and videography to a wider audience.

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