Malkoha sunbathing

on 18th June 2007


On 4th June 2007 Johnny Wee sent in images of a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus) sunning itself after the morning downpour along the Nee Soon pipeline. This is what birds normally do after being drenched by the rain. Or after a bath. Once dry, the feathers are carefully preened to keep them in perfect condition. Each feather will be passed through the beak to clean it and set the separate filaments back in place. After all, a well maintained set of feathers can mean life and death to the birds. They need to be agile in flight to catch prey and to escape predators.

In an earlier post on a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha sprawled out in the middle of a forest path in MacRitchie, the bird had its wings stretched and tail feathers fanned out. We were wondering then whether it was actually sunning itself or anting as there was no rain earler.


This recent encounter saw the bird sunning itself on the branch of a tree (above). According to Payne (1997), many cuckoos, including malkohas, need to warm and dry their bodies in the sun once their plumage become wet after the rain. They sit in a high open perch with the wings and tail spread and the back feathers raised to expose the skin to the sun. Once dried, they move on to feed. This behaviour is also seen in coucals.

Johnny Wee
June 2007

Payne, R.B. (1997). Family Cuculidae (cucoos). Pp.508-607 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.

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

2 Responses

  1. saw a pigeon on a tree with its tail featherrs and wing spread out – while it was still raining. it was there for some time in the rain. bathing?

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