A family of Red-legged Crakes

posted in: Species | 4

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On 11th February 2008, Dr Eric Tan a.k.a. MountainMan, documented an adult Red-legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) accompanied by a recently fledged chick foraging together in the Singapore Botanical Gardens (above: adult right, fledgling left).

There is more than one family of Red-legged Crake in the Gardens. One or more birds are regularly sighted in the morning or early evening, foraging or even stealing a bath in a roadside puddle after rain.

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The above images show the adult on the left and the fledgling on the right. The adult is an impressive looking bird with bright chestnut-orange head, neck, throat and upper breast. The lower breast and belly have prominent white barring. Coupled with these features are the bright orange iris and eye ring and red legs. However, the sexes are not easily distinguishable, although the female is somewhat more cinnamon on the head and neck. Also, her belly and flanks have narrower black bars.

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The juvenile, shown above stretching a wing and a leg, is not often illustrated in guide books, possibly because such images are uncommon. Well, we have here distinct images of a recently fledged chick showing brownish plumage that is chestnut in the adult. Also, the less distinct barring on the lower breast, belly and coverts. The iris and eye ring are less bright and the legs are just beginning to develop the redness.

All images by Dr Eric Tan.

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this blog is awesome. I love it! Keep up the great work.

    ~ Nick

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  2. Thanks Nick. The success is due mainly to the support of photographers. The period of collecting bird specimens (dead birds) belongs to the 19th century. The 20th century is the period of collecting observations. Dare I say that the 21st century will be a period of collecting bird images – not portrait shots but images of bird behaviour. Birding with a pair of bino will slowly be replaced by birding with a digital SLR and a powerful lens…

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  3. Choo Teik Ju

    These are great images. My greatest comfort would be knowing that there are more than one family of red-legged crake in Botanic Garden. I did not discover them while I was at Botanic Garden, but I do hope that they continue to sustain and go beyond present population. One question: apart from SBG, where can we find red-legged crake in Singapore?

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  4. Dear Teik Ju,

    Actually, the Red-legged Crake is uncommon but widespread in wooded habitats throughout Singapore. I have records of the species from various locations, including the western catchment, Lim Chu Kang, Bukit Batok & Bukit Timah, the central catchment, sembawang, loyang, ubin, tekong and many more places.

    The key is understaning the bird’s behaviour. This species is normally a shy and retiring woodland resident with crespecular habits. For many years, it was considered a very rare resident that was only occasionally encountered when it brought it’s chicks into gardens at the edge of woodlands (Hume Heights, Mount Pleasant), to forage or bathe in pools. Later, with the understanding that they became active in the evening and came out to bathe in drains and ditches, they were more regularly observed and photographed.

    Knowing the bird’s call is very important in surveying this species. This can be heard regularly, especially in the evenings (after 6pm). Learning the call of this crake some 18 years ago has allowed me to record the bird on many surveys around Singapore.

    The Botanic Gardens and it’s surroundings have several pairs. A mist-netting session, some years ago by Peter Kennerley, obtained 10 birds from one hot-spot.

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