The Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus melanolophus) is an uncommonly seen migrant to the region. I spotted a solitary juvenile today. Of interest to me was the display this bird showed 5 times (above, below).
It would puff up or lift out the feathers at the chest/breast. There were no calls made, no other birds nearby at the time and the bird would look intently at me at the time. I had the impression that the display was directed at me. I am not able to find any literature on this type of chest-display. Avifauna of Taiwan, 2nd edition states that when disturbed the bird “often erects the feathers on the head and stands still”. Bandekar, Parab & Shetka described a possible adult male displaying to a female with “crown was erect and all the brown feathers on the neck and back were fluffed-up”. They may have missed that the breast feathers in that bird were also a little fluffed-up. (see: Amit Bandekar, Prasanna Parab & Shriguru Shetkar (2012).
A photographic record of a displaying Malayan Night Heron in Goa, India (Indian Birds Vol. 7 No. 5; available online). However, the degree of display of breast feathers in my situation was much greater. A gif of the display (16 consecutive images) shows the behaviour best, see: https://youtu.be/xy4gOYucBtE
I suspect this display was in response to my presence. Appreciate any opinions.
One more image of the Malayan Night Heron to show the classical gait/walking stance (below).
Another observation is the preference for bamboo for this species. The few times I have met the bird (including in Taiwan) have been at or near bamboo environments. The IUCN-SCC Heron Specialist Group states that “it roosts well hidden in reed, bamboo, and other dense vegetation”. They also mention bamboo as one choice for breeding sites. (The IUCN-SCC Heron Specialist Group. Heron Conservation: Malayan Night-Heron; available here: https://www.heronconservation.org/herons-of-the-world/list-of-herons/malayan-night-heron). Avifauna of Taiwan, 2nd edition mentions that bamboo forests are one of the known habitats. I suspect the bamboo environment offers it an excellent camouflage. I had a tough time seeing the bird amidst the fallen brown bamboo leaves.
Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Secondary growth at city fringe
Date: 10th January 2019
Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld