Johnny Wee had an exciting encounter with a female Asian Paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi) at the Chinese Garden in Jurong on the morning of 21st December 2007. Not only did he get his shots, he was able to observe an interesting behaviour.
The bird was quietly perching on a branch of the bodh-tree (Ficus religiosa). Suddenly it fanned out its tail feathers. The movement of the fanned tail helped flush the insects around. The bird then sallied forth to snatch at them and returned to its perch. It then shook its body, partly spread its wings but leaving them drooping and spread the tail feathers wider. With tail partly opened, it did a sideway fanning, flushing more insects. It continued doing this a few more times.
Asian Paradise-flycatcher has been reported to take insects and other arthropods from a perch, sallying forth to snatch them. It then returns to the same branch or a different one to enjoy its catch. The bird also indulges in twig-gleaning and foliage-gleaning, although less frequently. Occasionally, it descends to the forest floor to flush insects by fluttering its wings.
The African Paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) has been observed using this fan-tail flushing (Coates et al. 2006) but there is no mention by Wells (2007) or Smythies (1999) for Asian Paradise-flycatcher seen around the Thai-Malay Peninsular and Borneo.
According to the literature, this method is common in a number of genera in the Monarch-Flycatchers family, Monarchidae.
It is possible that this fanning of the tail disturbs insects not so much from the movements but from the shadow cast under high light conditions, as shown in observations made on Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys).
I am sure Johnny finds it more fun observing birds than just watching them!
1.Coates, B.J., Dutson, G.C.L. & Filardi, C.E. (2006). Family Monarchidae (Monarch-Flycatchers). Pp.244-329 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Christie, D. A. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 11. Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
2. Smythies, B. E. (1999). Birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Pub. (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. & The Sabah Society. 4th ed, revised by G. W. H. Davison.
3. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London.