Vol 4 No 1
at Sungei Buloh
The Nesting Herons of
at the Park
at Sungei Buloh
You may miss the herons
when they stand still among the tall grasses, or stealthily on the trees. But
once spotted, identifying the birds is an easy task. Herons are birds of the
wetlands with distinctive features. Generally large in size, they are
relatively easy to observe. They have long, pointed bills, small heads, long
snake-like necks and long legs and toes. Fifteen species of birds classified
under the heron family (Ardeidae) are recorded in
the Sungei Buloh Nature
Park. Of the fifteen species, the Grey Heron and the Purple Heron are
breeding in the Park.
One of the largest species of birds to occur in Singapore, the
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) stands at about 92
centimetres high. Adult male birds are about 1.5 kilograms in weight. The
female birds are slightly lighter. Wingspans for both males and females could
reach up to two metres. They are mostly black, white and grey and have a
conspicuous black eyestripe-cum-nuchal crest. The
sexes are similar but the plumes of the female birds are shorter.
With not more than 250 individual birds throughout Singapore, the Grey Heron
is a vulnerable species here. It is found mainly along the northern coastline
and has established a heronry in the Sungei Buloh Nature Park within the past two years. This is believed
to be the only nesting site for the Grey Heron in Singapore.
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is another heron species
known conclusively to breed in the Park. About 76 centimetres in length, it
is slightly smaller compared to the Grey Heron. The Purple Heron looks darker
than the Grey Heron, is more rufous (reddish-brown)
than grey and has a black line down the neck. The neck also has a prominent
kink which is absent in the Grey Heron. Both sexes are similar in plumage.
In the Park, both the Grey and the Purple Heron can be seen in many of the
brackish water ponds. Perhaps one of the best places in the Park to see the
herons is from the visitor trail along route 2, near the Mangrove Arboretum.
Here, visitors can spot the many herons' nests among the mangrove trees.
Early in the nesting
season, you would be able to watch the herons construct their nests. The
males source for and deliver the nest materials which are usually sturdy
sticks while the females do the actual building and construction of the nest.
Talk about a woman's touch!
Look out for the nests which are bulky platforms of sticks perched on
branches of the mangrove trees. If you are observant, you might even catch a
glimpse of the three or four blue eggs in the nests. The period between the
laying of eggs to the chicks leaving the nests is about three months for both
the Grey and Purple Herons. Feeding of the young is done by both parents. The
chicks beg for food by tugging at their parents' bill to stimulate
regurgitation of the fish caught.
The frenzy of activity at the heronry at the Mangrove Arboretum should
continue until the end of June. Since February 1997, at least 60 individual
nests of the, Grey and Purple Herons have been counted. So do gather your
family and friends, grab your binoculars, telescopes
and cameras and come and get a piece of the action before the breeding season