Over the last few months, I have been watching a colony of four different Egrets nesting on a small island in a lake on the Gold Coast,
occasionally I see a dead Egret floating in the lake, which I presumed was runt of the clutch and had missed out on enough food and
has starved or one that has fallen out of the nest and has not been able to get back up to it.
The trees in the rookery are close to the waters edge but are not overhanging the water, any young that fall would land on the ground.
Yesterday evening I photographed what the reason is for the deaths, when the young are getting some size it is bedlam when the parent returns with food, they get that excited they madly scramble towards where the parent lands and if there are three or four young they all try to feed at once.
They all try to grab their beak at once and are that rough the parent flies a short distance away for a spell then comes back and tries again.
While the parent is a short distance away the young try to scramble through the branches to reach them and I saw one fall through to the ground only to be set upon by 5-6 Dusky Moorhens, who proceeded to kill it.
Shortly after it happened again, only this time they forced the young Cattle Egret into the water and with them all attacking it they forced in under the water till it drowned.
A few minutes later the body floated to the surface and they immediately landed on it and forced it down again.
There are two areas of bare ground close by where the Egrets come down to drink and the young when they are ready to leave the nest fly down and spend a day or two before they take to the air.
The Moorhens walk through them and don’t bother them in these areas.
The Moorhens seem to consider this area theirs and vigorously defend it, perhaps they have a nest under the canopy that I can’t see.