Sleeping Chestnut-naped Forktail

on 27th August 2007

Since the posting of Sleeping Birds earlier on, a few people have written expressing concern about disturbing these birds in their sleep, especially when flash is used to photograph them.


Forest Ang is one such concerned person. He was at Maliau Basin, Sabah when he came across a sleeping bird when out frogging along a small stream one night (left). The sleeping bird had its head buried under its wing.

“I took this sleeping Chestnut-naped Forktail (Enicurus ruficapillus) on a branch over a running stream. It was curled into a ball. I saw several mosquitoes on its toes. I think it got a fright when it suddenly woke up to see a shining torchlight. It flew aimlessly like a drunken bird.

“I really felt sorry for the intrusion. Perhaps we photographers should restrain ourselves from getting too near. It could hit a tree and injure itself in the darkness.

“I had a few previous encounters with sleeping birds but all of them were not bothered with my presence.

“After the Chestnut-naped Forktail, I have been restraining myself from the urge to take pictures of sleeping birds…should we? What is your comment?”

See Forest Ang’s video here!

Yes, flashing sleeping birds may disturb them. As I earlier posted in reply to Serene, some birds may actually be disturbed, waking up for a moment, to go back to sleep. Others may be oblivious to the flashes and continue sleeping…

Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with taking photographs of sleeping birds, as long as we do not overdo it. It is the same with photographing nesting birds. How else do we add to our knowledge of bird behaviour? We do need such documentation. Taking photographs is a lesser “evil” than taking specimens of animals for study.

As long as we do things in moderation, we would not be disturbing the birds too much. It is only when a few photographers descend on the scene, each releasing a dozen or so flashes at the sleeping or even a nesting bird, that we are causing problems.

Input by Forest Ang, image from his webpage.

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

6 Responses

  1. Forest Ang,
    You are right all the way and it is good to share such experiences and a good hearted person that is a matured birder learns from incidents and hopeful others will also be made more aware of it.

    This recalls my personal experience with 2 other birding pals then ,who were using DSLR and flash photography.

    On a night of owling ,we stumbled across a sleeping juvenile mangrove pitta.
    The reaction of the pitta was, it was rudely awakened and froze perching on the vine. I believe now it is more of -the bird was temporary blinded due to flash photography and because the mangrove floor area was flooded, it had no where to fly down.

    I concluded that owling sessions should also be conducted sparingly with least harrassment to birds.

    Cheers! Daisy

  2. Continued..

    Oops! I forgot to mention.
    The juvenile mangrove pitta did used it’s nictitating membrane to shield the glare of flash.
    This was captured on a shot provided by courtesy of one of my birding pal.

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