White-breasted Waterhen – feeding behaviour

On 12th November 2013, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS observed the feeding behaviour of the White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus phoenicurus) at the Malim Nawar Wetlands in Perak, Malaysia

According to Amar, “Although common, the diet of the White-breasted Waterhen could do with more observation. Their diet is large and varied, comprising many insects, earthworms, some molluscs, grass seeds, roots/shoots of some plants, etc.

There was an adult and a chick. The latter was feeding independently, picking off small insects off low lying bushes (above left) as well as grass and sedge seeds (above right, possibly Pycreus polystachyos (previously Cyperus polystachyos) (below left: close-up of the chick).

“The adult became concerned with my observation and assumed this ‘rigid’ posture (above right) and, with the beak closed, uttered a series of sharp calls (sorry missed recording them),” wrote Amar. “This rapidly produced the other adult with another chick in tow. I backed off and they became more settled, and continued feeding as family.”

Over in Singapore, Andy Dinesh documented a video of an adult White-breasted Waterhen leading three chicks foraging grass seeds at Lorong Halus in December 2013 (below).

“The parent bird went about picking grass seeds for the chicks which were obviously in a somewhat vertically challenged state,” wrote Andy in his website LINK. Two of the chicks seemed to be more dependent of the parent and rarely strayed more than a half a metre from it. The third was however more independent and did not seem to mind being away from the protective wings of the parent bird. The parent bird extended back its wings as if to provide shelter for its brood even though the chicks seemed a little big to all fit under the umbrella at the same time.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS & Andy Dinesh
Singapore
January 2014

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