Pucong Seriap (Malay)
Grey Heron is the largest bird in Singapore, standing at 1m tall with
a wingspan of 2m.
Grey Herons eat whatever they can catch: fish, amphibians, arthropods
(insects, spiders), crustacea (crabs), and even small mammals (rodents),
reptiles (hatchling turtles), small birds (catching these on the wing).
They are not above scavenging, and stealing prey caught by other birds
(e.g., the Purple Heron).
Grey Herons have
long necks and powerful bills for a long and strong reach. They usually
wait on the mud or at the water's edge to snatch passing aquatic prey.
They can stand motionless for hours. Or they may wade slowly through
shallow water or on mud freshly exposed by the tide. They may also
stalk fish. They may even dive into deeper water. In Europe, some
even follow farm ploughs to catch whatever is unearthed or flushed
out in the process.
Herons roost and nest in groups, they hunt alone. But when prey is
plentiful, they may
feed in groups, evenly spaced out. They are most active at dawn and
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Tall (90cm-1m, 1.5kgs). Grey plumage
with long black head plume (crest); neck white with black
stripes on the front; flight feathers black.
Non-breeding: bill yellow; legs yellowish-brown.
Breeding: bill more orange, legs more rose-pink
Genders look alike, females have shorter head plumes.
Juvenile: Mostly grey, no
black markings or crest; legs dull and dark.
A very loud harsh croak (kra-ak); deep, guttural
honks while in flight or at nest.
flight: Distinct contrast between black flight
feathers and grey wing coverts and back. Fly with their
necks tucked in, so they look shorter. Wingbeat ponderous
in Singapore: Common resident throughout the island,
and North offshore islands (Pulau Tekong and Ubin).
World distribution: Throughout
the Old World. Not found in Australia. Resident in South
China, Vietnam, Myanmar, peninsular Malaysia.
Classification: Family Ardeidae.
World 65 species, Singapore 17 species.
prey is tossed back into the bill alive. Larger ones are shaken or stabbed
to death then manipulated to be eaten head first. Those too large to swallow
whole are discarded.
In the Thai-Malay peninsula, mangroves are the Grey Herons' preferred place
for hunting, roosting and breeding. Mangroves have the shallow waters and
mudflats that their hunting style is best suited to, and the tall trees
they like to roost and nest in. They are also found on the coast and occasionally
in freshwater wetlands and grasslands further inland.
Breeding: Grey Herons breed from the
low arctic to the tropics. In the Thai-Malay peninsula, Grey Herons appear
to breed year-round. Courting rituals include a courting call, clappering
of bills and displays of erected plumes with neck stretching and wing flapping.
Herons generally nest in colonies. Preferred nest sites are tall emergent
trees, even dead ones. Their nests are large (40-45 cm wide) platforms solidly
built out of sticks and lined with grass or fresh leafy branches. The males
find and bring nesting materials to the females: the giving and receiving
of sticks is done with lots of ritual. It is the female who does most of
the actual construction.
3-6, usually 4, large greenish blue eggs are laid. Incubation takes 24-27
days. The young fledge in 7 weeks-3 months. Both parents feed and look after
the young, who tug at their parents' bills to get them to regurgitate food
for them. There is intense sibling rivalry and one may kill another, and
even eat it.
Migrants: Some Grey Herons that breed
in the north migrate to the tropics, sometimes going beyond the range of
resident, breeding tropical Grey Herons.
Status and threats: Grey Herons in Singapore
are vulnerable to the loss of breeding grounds as mangroves and other suitable
habitats are cleared. It is estimated that there are only 10 breeding colonies
in the Thai-Malay peninsula, and the heronry at Sungei Buloh is one of these.
In Singapore, there are about 250 individuals (as at 1997). They are
found mainly on the northern coast of the island and appear most active
in the Kranji area which includes Sungei Buloh Nature Park. For more details
and photos on the colony at Sungei Buloh, check out Heronry:
Home of the Herons. Elsewhere in the world, Grey Herons are hunted as
food and as a pest on fish farms and competitors for game fish. They are
also affected by pollution, pesticides and habitat destruction.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 47: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- David R Wells,
"The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)",
Academic Press, 1999 (p. 72-74: identification, distribution map, habits,
habitat, migration, conservation).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 83: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram showing the differences with
similarly shaped herons, number of species).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 108: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 15: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 43: habit, habitat).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 51: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds)
- James Gan, "The
Nesting Herons of Sungei Buloh", Wetlands Vol 4 No 1, Apr 97,
Sungei Buloh Nature Park publication (p. 4-5; breeding, habitat, habits,
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 5, 19: distribution and status in Singapore and details on
destruction of their nesting sites, fact sheet on major aspects).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 35: description, habits, habitat).
- Prof. Dr. Yong
Hoi Sen (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Animals";
Waterbirds by Siti Hawa bt Yatim, Editions Didier Millet, 1998 (p. 58-59:
habits, habitats, photos).
- James Hancock,
"Herons and Egrets of the World: A photographic journey",
Academic Press, 1999 (p. 28: identification, distribution, status, feeding,
breeding, photos of adult and juvenile).