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Black-naped Oriole catching a cicada

on 11th March 2008

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Dr Redzlan Abdul Rahman recently spotted a Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) with a cicada in its bill perching on a branch of a tree by his house in Raub, Malaysia. He rushed into his house, grabbed his camera and proceeded to take a few shots shown on the left. The bird was busy manipulating the large and stocky insect that he thinks may be an emperor cicada (Pomponia imperatoria), considering its size.

The mass singing by a large number of cicadas can often be heard in rural areas, especially around forests. The loud and shrill singing suddenly pierces through the silence of the rural air, and just as suddenly it stops, to restart after a short interval. This characteristic mating song is made by the males, to attract females. Such singing, it is claimed, can chase away birds, as the noise can hurt their ears and thus interfere with their communication.

Obviously the cicada caught by this oriole was a loner and the noise it emitted was not too irritating. The large wings are usually broken off as the insect is swiped against the branch to subdue it. Only then is the body swallowed. However, this last stage was not observed.

Cicadas are rather common where Dr Redzlan lives – often heard but seldom seen. These insects complete their life cycle underground. This may take from a few months to years, depending on species. The eggs are laid above ground but as they hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground and burrow under the soil. There they grow, shedding their old skins and developing new ones. This is necessary as the skin is not elastic and cannot expand as the body increases in size. Moulting occurs a few times and just before the final moult, the nymphs move above ground where the old skins are often left on tree trunks and branches, as seen in the image below (left). That on the right shows an adult cicada on a tree trunk. Note that this is a different species of cicada from the one caught by the oriole.

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Black-naped Orioles take insects like grasshoppers, mantids, large caterpillars and hornet grubs. They also take a broad range of fruit, not to forget bird nestlings.

Cicada is here recorded as another food item of the Black-naped Oriole.

Images of oriole manipulating cacada by Dr Redzlan, other two by YC.

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

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