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Bitterns and Egrets Photographed in Lake and Coastal Habitats

Bitterns and egrets are from the Ardeidae family, part of the Pelecaniformes order of birds but are sometimes listed under the Ciconiiformes order. The birds inhabit wetlands; the gallery features images of birds hunting for fish in a lakes and ponds. They prey on a variety of aquatic food including crustaceans, amphibians and insects.

Bitterns

Yellow bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) breed in reed beds and hunt fish, amphibians and insects. They are resident over a large range – South East Asia, Indonesia and are native in Singapore where I photographed them at Symphony Lake in the Botanic Gardens, the lakes in the Japanese Garden in Jurong and at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. They are sexual dimorphic and my images show the male, which is a uniform dull yellow above and buff below while the female has a streaked brown crown, neck and breast.

Like most members of the heron family, they adopt different postures: upright with the head and neck extended to look for food, Erect (Bittern Posture) with the bill and neck vertical and Crouch where the head and neck withdrawn. They are extremely agile some images show birds gripping palm stems and while almost horizontally it extends its neck ready to strike its prey.

Schrenck's Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus) or Von Schrenck's Bittern hunts similar prey to the yellow bittern. I photographed this bittern in the ponds at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore where it is a winter visitor.

Egrets

The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a cosmopolitan species found in most regions of the world, which I photographed in the grassy areas at La Vaga Estate lakes in Trinidad. They are found in both wetlands and open grasslands where they feed on insects. Although not accepted by all authorities Bubulcus ibis is known as the western cattle egret following its split of B. coromandus, which is as the eastern cattle egret.

Chinese egrets (Egretta eulophotes) are IUCN categorised as vulnerable with a decreasing population of less than a 10,000 mature individuals. These birds can be confused with the little egrets, the image show an egret with dirty green legs and yellow lower mandible. They feed on similar food to all other egrets and herons.

The Great white egret (Ardea alba) or great egret is the tallest of the egrets and hunt in the same way as herons and feed on similar foods.  I photographed individuals of the eastern great egret (Ardea alba modesta) subspecies at the Firth of Thames and Okarito Wetland in New Zealand and at Sungei Buloh in Singapore. The eastern great egret (Ardea alba modesta) subspecies are found in South East Asia, Indonesia and Australasia.

Intermediate egrets (Ardea intermedia) are slightly larger than the little egrets and can be recognised by their yellow-orange bills and black feet. An image in the gallery shows an intermediate with two little egrets at Sungei Buloh wetland in Singapore.

The Egretta caerulea is part of the egret family, commonly known as the little blue heron, widespread in USA, Central America, northern part of South American and in Trinidad where I photographed these birds at Orange Valley mudflats and Caroni Swamp. They feed on fish, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, small birds, crustaceans and large insects.

I photographed the little egret (Egretta garzetta) at Singapore’s Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and at the lakes in Jurong. It’s a winter (September to May) migrant to Singapore. As it was March, when I photographed them, some birds were in their breeding plumage getting ready for migration to their breeding grounds. Unlike the heron, which can adopt, classic static hunting posture, either crouched or standing little egrets are often more active. A couple of strategies they adopt include rushing around in shallow water stirring up the mud to disturb their prey, which they grab in their mandibles or slowly walk around through the water stalking their prey.

The Snowy egret (Egretta thula) is a new world species, which I photographed at the Orange Valley mudflats near Waterloo in Trinidad. They hunt for same food as most herons such as fish, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and large insects.

Self-introduced in New Zealand from Australia the White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) is now a commonly seen resident. They hunt and feed on fish, frogs, amphibians. I came across this species on both the north and South Island hunting on the shoreline.

Featured Bittern and Egrets, Pelecaniformes order

Ardeidae (Heron family

Schrenck's Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes) [VU]

Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia)

Eastern-great Egret (Ardea alba modesta)

Great White Egret (Ardea alba)

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

Abbreviations

IUCN categories: [VU] Vulnerable. IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature (2015). [Online] Available from: https://www.iucn.org/ [Accessed 28th August 2015].

Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), with extended neck, Jurong, Singapore Male Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) perched, Botanic Gardens, Singapore, 2013 Female Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), Japanese Garden, Jurong, Singapore, 2013 Male Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), with fish, Botanic Gardens, Singapore, 2013 Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), in palm, Botanic Gardens, Singapore Female Von Schrenck's Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus), Sungei Buloh, Singapore, 2015 Female Von Schrenck's Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus), Sungei Buloh, Singapore, 2015 Male Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) with fish, Sungei Buloh, Singapore, 2015 Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), La Vaga Lakes, Trinidad, 2015 Eastern Great Egret, Firth of Thames East, New Zealand Great White Egret (Ardea alba), Flying at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore, 2015 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Breeding Plumage Singapore White Faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) at Point Kean, Kaikoura Peninsula, New Zealand Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore, 2015 15007d2-3207-snowy-egret-orange-valley-mudflats-trinidad Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), La Vaga Lakes, Trinidad, 2015 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), on rock, Singapore Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), take-off, Singapore Pair Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula), flying at Orange Valley Mudflats, Trinidad, 2015 Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia with two Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Sungei Buloh, Singapore, 2015 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore White Faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), Pilots Beach, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), La Vaga Lakes, Trinidad, 2015 Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), Orange Valley Mudflats, Trinidad, 2015 Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Caroni Swamp, Trinidad, 2105 Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Orange Valley Mudflats, Trinidad, 2015 Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), fish grabbed in mandibles, Jurong, Singa Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), with fish, Singapore