Great Egret rejecting freshly caught prey

“On the morning of 26 Dec 2015, I was observing and photographing birds at Sugei Buloh Wetland Reserve. I was observing a Great Egret (Ardea alba) fishing. It plunged its head into the water (above). In the picture, we could also clearly see the kink on the upper part of the egret’s neck. That’s probably where the egret gets it’s jack-hammer power to impale its prey.

“It retrieved a large Spotted Scat Scatophagus argus
(source: Wild Singapore) from the water (above). It held the fish for several seconds. The scat fish was savagely impaled as we could see in the photo, the body fluid of the fish oozing out.

“After several seconds, the egret released its grip of the scat fish (above). The next picture (below) shows the fish entering the water.

“In the picture below, the dead scat fish floated belly up.

“I could think of two reasons why the egret rejected this fresh catch. Its flat body was big and round, making it a choking hazard. The second reason could be the poisonous spikes located on the scat fish, first set of dorsal fins.

“I hope to hear other views on why the Great Egret rejected the scat fish.”

Thong Chow Ngian
Singapore
30th December 2015

3 Responses

  1. Oh dear, the poor fish died for nothing. Hope something else consumes it.

    Can the egret eat something of this size? The fish’s shape is round and not elongated, so can it possibly fit down the egret’s throat? Also, shouldn’t the egret have noticed this when it was targeting the fish?

    Lastly, I noticed a huge influx of about 15+ jellyfish during high tide at the Sungei Api Api canal in Pasir Ris some time ago. Just curious – do egrets eat jellyfish?

  2. Sun Chong Hong

    My guess is that the fish was already dead but prevented from floating to the surface by weeds below. The Great Egret sensed that there was no movement from the fish and hence release it immediately.

    I doubt freshly killed fish would float in water so soon.

    An account of a similar episode involving a Little Egret here:

    http://www.besgroup.org/2012/04/05/water-birds-in-bishan-park/

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