Of nesting shift duties and Coppersmith Barbets (Part 3)

on 6th March 2009

It is going to be a long day for Dayshift bird. Change of shift duties was observed to be carried out by the parenting pair only in the mornings.

That means each parent bird is putting in a 24hour shift work! Any Avian Labour Laws?

Dayshift bird would be seen taking in strides regularly by announcing its arrival to the awaiting Nightshift with subtle ‘tok-tok’ calls; in clockwork about precision time and perched 15 feet away. Two monitored calls showed arrival times to be between 0801hs. and 0821hs. in different days (left). When all is clear, Dayshift would make a dash, a quick assessment of his vested interests, checked no one was looking and disappeared into the cavity after having been vacated by Nightshift. All done in less than a minute.

Let’s take a look at 6 sequential shots taken 29th January, 2009 between 0825hs. and 0826hs (above).

With a comparison image taken on 25th January, 2009 at 0833hs, showing time of entry (left).

A bonus front entry view of Dayshift on 2nd February 2009 at 0840hs provided the finale (below).

Coppersmith Barbets (Megalaima haemacephala) appeared to have built-in biological clocks that seemed to tell birds when to clock in and out.

Dayshift chores include the practice of good housekeeping (left).

Also, playing dead in the nest and having to deal with unwanted visitor- the House Crow (Corvus splendens). The black bird decided to perch over the nesting, dead tree branch and actually looked into the cavity where my scope was directed!! (below)

The scavenging bird was observing me just the same, thus proving that bird predators are sharp observers. If it had been an opened nest, I would not have taken the task of nest observation under the opened skies of countless House Crows and Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis), the latter also witnessed to be chick raiders.

In doing so, I would be responsible for indirectly authorising a raiding mission of nesting chicks knowingly or unknowingly. I would recommend and urge new bird-observers to kindly take note of this field experience and opt for a natural yet defensive and protective approach in bird observation.

Be mindful that the bird observer who takes upon that task – the minute he/she chooses to observe nesting birds- is holding him/herself accountable for the welfare of chicks’ safety. This is the way I personally would like to see it.

It was a good thing the scavenging crow had not learnt the leverage of sticks to fish out chicks in nesting holes as seen in one of David Attenborough’s television series – Life of Birds.

The documentary showed a species of bird with intelligence enough to probe termite moulds with a twig, thus sending crawling breakfasts out on twigs!

The House Crow would risks its oversized head getting lodged in the nesting cavity- the size made to just fit the bodice of the Coppersmith Barbets.

It will be interesting to observe when barbet chicks do arrive eventually, what these scavenging crows that roost by the hundreds along the river bank will be up to.

As observations progressed into the second week, I noticed that Dayshift bird did actually take a five minute break from the nest for a breather.

Let us take a look at the final part article of what Dayshift and Nightshift birds do when they leave nest and clock off duty.

All images by digiscopy techniquesOptics Used: Fieldscope ED82 +30x + Coolpix P3

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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