New fishing technique for Little Egret

“The Little Egret (Egretta garzetta garzetta) has a number of foraging techniques for catching fish prey. These include:

1. A common technique is to wait patiently by the shallow end of a pond to pick out smaller fish.

2. When opportunity offers itself, the bird will perch on overhanging wires or metal/wooden protrusions in the water as a perch to feed from. This often can be seen at sewage oxidation ponds.

3. Optimistic feeding occurs when large fish ponds are drained and there is fish in shallow waters to take at ease (see above – note also in the image a grey/dark morph Little Egret. A close-up image of the individual below).

4. When fish farming ponds are not well tended, toxins can develop (an anaerobic layer at the bottom) or leech into the water (after heavy rain); when this happens fish tend to swim at the surface (indebt to Lee Chiu San for this insight). Many herons and egrets take advantage of this, including the Little Egret. They hover or skim over the surface of the pond, with legs trailing in the water to catch prey. Many successful dives in to obtain prey. Occasionally some will float on the surface to get prey.

5. On this occasion I saw a few Little Egrets using Water Buffalos (Bubalus bubalis) as a platform to fish in deeper waters. The weather was extremely hot and the Water Buffalos were not content to use just mud pools but soaked for long periods in deeper clear fish farming ponds. The Little Egrets would perch on their back and fish from there with a good success rate (above). The Water Buffalos did not appear distressed in being used in this way.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
25th April 2019

Location: Malim Nawar Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Extensive ex-tin mining area with pond/lakes, wetlands, fish farming

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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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