Tag Archives: Pacific Reef Heron

Pacific Reef Heron at Seletar Dam

I have written previously about the Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra) here before.

The last time I saw a dark-morph Pacific Reef Heron at Seletar Dam was in 2012. So it was a pleasant surprise when I bumped into it again a few days back. The tide was receding in the evening at the beach and I was monitoring the waders there. Nonetheless it was still a bit high when I arrived. The heron saw me and promptly flew away to the jetty near the patch of mangrove. Hidden away, I didn’t track its presence, but instead sat down to await the waders arrival.

As one Common Sandpiper landed at the mangrove area, my binoculars pointed to that direction and next to it was the heron, neatly camouflaged by its greyish colour. I approached nearer to photograph it, but the soft mud prevented me moving too close.

A few minutes later, it decided that the tide was sufficiently low for it to start feeding so it flew considerably closer and I had to retreat to the nearby rocks. As I sat there, it went about its business of wading in the shallow waters to look for food. A few unsuccessful pecks yielded seaweed, and so it decided to be closer to land and came towards me at the rocks. It was searching for food and it seem more successful picking up foodstuff between the rocks. I could not see what it was picking up, but it spent quite a long time moving between the rocks and pecking away.

At times, it came too near me and I had to signal to it my presence by standing up. This prompted it to retreat slowly.

As the tide retreated further, it started flying towards the sandier part of the beach and again started looking for food. I saw it picking up a few pieces of organic material but no crustacean so it threw them away. By that time, I was more interested in the waders that was streaming it, so I left it to feed by itself.

In all the time I was watching it, it alternated between the mangrove patch, the shallow waters, the rocks and the sandy beach. When not looking for food, it stood on rocks or trees. Once it was active, it preferred a hunched appearance, walking calmly and deliberately with its eye scanning intently.

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Pacific Reef Heron in Singapore

The Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra) also known as the Pacific Reef Egret is a bird of the heron family that is resident from South-east Asia region to Australia and New Zealand.

It is a peculiar heron species that exhibit non-sexual dimorphism, that is that some birds are entirely white-plumaged (white-morph) and some entirely charcoal grey (dark morph). The grey plumaged birds formed the majority of the population worldwide (but apparently the opposite in Singapore in the past) but they breed freely. There have also been cases of intermediate coloured morph but that is rarer.

These herons are predominantly coastal birds, and can be found near the shore, where they time their feeding according to the tide level. They hunt for fish, crustaceans and molluscs om the shallower part of the water.

In Singapore, they can be found near the seaside, with the largest population at the shores of the various southern islands. However they can be found in other places. These past few years, they have been reported near West Coast Park, Pasir Ris Park, Seletar Dam, Pulau Ubin and even a canal along Telok Kurau.


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