SIDEBAR

Western Reef Egrets – Opportunistic feeding

6 comments
May 14 2012

 

 

During my boat safari at Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, we ventured out into the Bay of Bengal for a short while before heading back into the mangroves. The waters were very choppy and it was quite a roller-coaster ride. As the boat braved the waves, we could see small fish leaping out of the water to escape the boat.

We came across a group of Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis). There were about 10-12 of them following our boat.

Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) around our boat`

Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) around our boat

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) flying

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) flying

 

Very soon, it became apparent that they were around for a purpose other than curiosity. They were, in fact, hunting the fish that the boat was “dislodging”. I’ve seen Gulls and Terns associate with fishing boats earlier, but this is the first time I’ve seen Western Reef Egrets engaging in this behaviour.

Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) flying around and fishing

Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) flying around and fishing

 

The random movement of the birds as well as the choppy waters made for a very challenging photography situation. After a while, the group left the boat and headed back towards the mangroves. However, very soon, another group came and joined us in their opportunistic pursuit.

They are masterful hunters on the wing and their strike ratio seemed to be very good. We could see them catching fish very often. In some cases, the other members of the group would give the successful bird a chase in a bid to steal the fish. Following is a sequence of images after an Egret successfully caught a fish.

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) - Hunt Sequence 1

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) immediately after it caught the fish. It tries to balance itself in order to take off again.

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) - Hunting Sequence 2

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) beating its wings vigorously to take off.

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) - Hunting Sequence 3

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) finally able to take off

 

Photographing frenzy aside, it was interesting to see them engage in this behavior for about 10 minutes. They finally left us as we approached the mangroves.

Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) flying away

Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) flying away

 

Later on, we came across them hunting in the mangroves in typical Egret-style.

Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis)

Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis)

  1. chandrasekhar 

    Shreeram,

    Greetings. That is a wonderful observation and presentation of their behavior. The photos are of excellent quality despite the fact that the waters were very choppy. Great work!

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