Chestnut-winged Babbler: Courtship ritual

on 6th May 2007

The Chestnut-winged Babbler (Stachyris erythroptera) is an uncommon resident of the forest. The bird is nationally vulnerable due to its small, localised population.

KC Tsang reported seeing the male babbler in an unusual courtship ritual on 22nd April 2007. He observed that whenever the bird calls or sings, he displays “a white/bluish skin patch on both sides of the puffed up throat. Unlike that of the Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) that has two orange/yellow tuffs of feathers extended out from its shoulders in the mating dance.

“I am quite sure this kind of display by this bird had not been observed/recorded before…”

Yes, KC is right, this type of courtship ritual has not been reported or recorded for the Chestnut-winged Babbler.

*However, there is a paragraph in Birds of Borneo by Smythies, B. E. (1999), [Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Pub. (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. & The Sabah Society. 4th ed, revised by G. W. H. Davison] on the Rail Babbler (Eupetes macrocerus) that states:

“In Sumatra KS Bishop observed one displaying in response to imitations of its voice. It approached to within 4m, hopped on to a fallen tree and after a few minutes turned head-on and slowly bowed, tipping its bill to the ground whilst at the same time broadly expanding its chest to exhibit an almost iridescent halo of brilliant blue and deep chestnut-red. This continued for several seconds with the bird slowly bowing and expanding its breast, then raising its head once again, before it scuttled away (KD Bishop, in litt.).”

It is gratifying to see that birders are now paying more attention to bird behaviour than before.

KC Tsang
May 2007

*PS (020607): Our field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng has just pointed out to me that there is a note in Smythies’ book (page 512) on the blue patches for Chestnut-winged Babbler.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

3 Responses

  1. Hi all,
    Sorry out of topic…but I’m wondering what’s the different between ‘ritual’ and ‘display’? eg. courtship ritual and courtship display.
    could anyone help me? post me a message by e-mail will be welcome..

    dwi_mulya at

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