Tragedy of a road kill: Mountain Bulbul I

on 20th November 2008

Fraser’s Hill at 1300 metres above sea level in Pahang state, Malaysia is just about the best place to enjoy a cool, relaxing, birding get-away and meeting up with sub-montane feathered friends (above)

A visit to this old British colonial, post 1st World War, hill station is incomplete without a chance encounter of a trogon. At worst birding luck, the whimpering puppy cry call of a Red-headed Trogon (Harpactes erythrocepthalus) or the staccato stammering of a choked throated Orange-breasted Trogon (H. oreskios) simply had to be heard (left).

But… that’s good enough to send an attentive, passionate bird lover’s head turn and return for more.

To me, it is a lover’s call that sends my heart a quickening. Anything else, ‘boleh tunggu.’ In Bahasa language it means, ‘can wait’ Well, for now at least….

This visit turned out differently for me. I noticed an olive coloured bird on the road, close to a junction of the popular birding site – Hemmant Trail. The bird was standing beside an object beyond what my eyes could identify.

On closer observation through my 8×33 binoculars, it soon became clear what I observed was a first, rare encounter and tragedy parental behaviour of a Mountain Bulbul (Hypsipetes mcclellandii) reacting over a road kill (above left).

The fresh road kill was no other than its newly fledged chick. It must have flown from the under canopy sloped bush and landed on the tarred, narrow road that lead to a bend, only to be squashed by an on coming vehicle, carelessly or oblivion of its presence.

The ill fated, tailless chicks as shown here, still in downy feathers, simply had its skull crushed and a section of frontal skull scalp dislodged and scattered on the road as marked in yellow (above right).

Enlarged view showed the road kill lying on the side with sunken eye socket and spills around (below left).

The entrails were not spared either and they were forcely purged (above right).

The parent feeder had a dragon fly in its beak, obviously returning from a hunt only to find its chick motionless on the ground (below left).

How did the parent respond?

Through my scope, I followed the movements of the parent and the continuous call to the chick was a distressing, ‘cheep, cheep, and cheep’ as the parent took to pacing around the dead chick.

Finally, the pacing came to a halt and the parent with catch still in beak, sat down closely and protectively behind its fledgling.

Heart wrenching for the parent, I took this poignant shot (above right).

It became the shot of my 1000 km round trip.

More ‘cheep, cheep cheep!’ came. The parent looked around in dismay. The parent’s alarm calls were ignored. There was no show of a second parent. No help of any sort came. There was no response from fledgling to receive the feed.

The parent became more restless and looked lost as it got up and took to more searching for a live chick to feed (right). Was the parent looking for a resolution?

What happened to the dragon fly?

Do join me again for the final conclusion. Coming up tomorrow.
(Observation period took place from 1632hs-1635hs. Sept. 2008)


Photographed by Digiscopy technique. (Optics used: Fieldscope ED82 + 30x +Coolpix P4)

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.

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