Nestling of Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Pasir Ris Park, 14th December 2015
Yap Xinli and Riane Brittany Francisco were standing beneath several trees that serve as a nesting colony of Grey Herons when a nestling suddenly fell to the ground, and died shortly after.
Grey Herons lay their eggs over a period of several days; as a result, the eggs that are laid earlier hatch first, and feeding begins immediately. By the time the last chick finally hatches, its older siblings would have had a head start and grown larger. Competition between the chicks for food and parental attention can be high, and older chicks assert their dominance over younger siblings by pecking and basically pushing any smaller, weaker siblings aside when the adults arrive to feed them. As a result, nestling mortality can be very high in some colonies.
It’s possible that this particular nestling had been bullied by a sibling until it was forced to leave the nest and fell out of the tree, or might have been dying anyway due to bullying, starvation, or disease, and was then removed by a parent.
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