Sunday, February 19, 2012

The "white egrets" of Northern Sarawak

I used to get quite frustrated when many and invitation to go checkout egrets on nearby backyard beaches received quick retorts from invitee, "What could be interesting about a white egret, they are all over the place, and they are all white!" Or when you hear someone from the floor yelling "WHITE EGRET!" when you successively show pictures of the following 6 species of "white egrets" at a slideshow.

Here are a selection of images of the "white egrets" made in Sarawak over the past several years, some are as recent as from February 2012.

Pacific Reef Egret (Grey morph), Egretta sacra, prefers rocky shores with breeding records from Sabah and Sarawak. The white morph are common in Sabah. Ranges from East India to Australia and Pacific Islands, north to Japan.

Little Egret, Egretta garzetta garzetta ... notice the little yellow "socks" on his feet. Breeding range from Europe to East Asia. Egretta garzetta nigripes has completely black feet and are less common.

The ubiquitous Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, perhaps the most common egrets in these parts. Breeds in East Asia and can be seen hunting for insects on grassy fields. Orange breeding patches prior to their return to breeding grounds (see below).

Cattle Egret in breeding plumage.

Intermediate Egret or Plumed Egret, Egretta intermedia, notice the yellow bill with a black tip at the end. Breeds in Northern Asia with several breeding records in Sabah. Winters south.

Great Egret, Ardea alba, breeding populations in Sabah however no known breeding records in Sarawak. The largest of the white egrets.

Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes, a scarce winter migrant to Sabah and Sarawak from Northern Asia.

Chinese Egret.

I've also added images of Grey Heron and Purple Heron to satisfy those looking for those not-so-white egrets but big birds with long necks and legs.

Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, with breeding records from Sabah and Sarawak. Breeds in Europe to North Asia, winters south.

Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea, breeds from Europe to Asia, winters south. One nest with young observed at Kuala Baram in 1998. The nest tree was long gone since then.

Two more images visibly missing are that of a white-morph Pacific Reef Egret and Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana. The first can be easily procured at Likas Bay, Sabah while the latter may prove slightly more difficult. Most recent records of Great-billed Heron was made in Danum Valley, last record in Sarawak was at Trusan in Lawas ... another potential site in Sarawak would be Loagan Bunut.

Images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Feb 2012

References : Birds of Borneo, 2nd Edition, Quentin Phillips and Karen Phillips, 2011.

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