The Little Heron (Butorides striatus) chick has been under my care for a month now (3rd December 2007). The bird has shed all its natal down and is now covered with juvenal plumage. All the flight feathers have fully emerged from their sheaths and the bird has been regularly exercising its wings, flapping them within the confines of the small cage. It is also regularly preening its feathers.
The bird is now responsive to the sounds of other birds around the neighbourhood, stretching its neck and intently listening. It has also been getting more restless, moving round and round the cage and poking its head out between the wires.
All these point to one thing – that it was ready for release into the wild.
So on 3rd December 2007, our field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng came to do a final checking of the ring applied earlier. She assured me that there would be no problems for although the leg bones would grow in length, they would not increase in girth. She also took the final set of measurements of the bird (left) prior to release. These are given below – the figures between brackets were taken on 14th November when the bird was ringed:
Length of bird (relaxed): 310 mm
Weight: 195 g (175)
Bill length: 56 mm (50.4)
Wing length: 165 mm (145)
Tail length: 53 mm (38)
Tarsus length: 42.1 mm (42.1)
The weight of the bird taken earlier:
03 Nov 100g; 04 Nov 120g; 07 Nov 150g; 12 Nov 175g; 03 Dec 195g.
The bird was then released at the edge of a lake near where it was found, where there is vegetation cover for it to take refuge and where there is a plentiful supply of fish (above).
Images by YC.
Latest: I have been checking the location regularly, hoping to see the released heron but with no luck. The on the evening of 2nd January 2008, one day short of a month after release, I spotted it by the lake standing on a mound of earth. Then it entered the shallow water and began fishing. It then flew off to the other side of the lake. The Little Heron is alive and well!