Sleeping Chestnut-naped Forktail

posted in: Roosting | 6

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.

6 Responses


    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



    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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.