The arrival of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Cyex erithacus) to Singapore during February-March 2009 provided opportunities for birdwatchers to view and photographer to document this uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant.
It was KN Pan who first highlighted an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher with a slightly bald patch on its head (left). Apparently some of its head feathers were absent, giving rise to speculation that it probably was attacked on the head. Subsequently to this report, images by others also showed similar bald patch on the bird’s head.
The images were sent to field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng, who commented that the semi-bald head could not be due to moulting. She confirmed that the kingfisher had been attacked on the head. Or that it had rubbed its head against something to cause the bald patch.
Luan Keng added: “I’ve processed quite a few Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers in Singapore but never came across any moulting birds during the migratory season.”
According to Calvin Chang, the bird “could have been attacked by the drongos. Had seen the drongo chase the kingfisher some time back at that area.”
Finally, in early March, Tan Gim Cheong produced his close-up image of the kingfisher showing the emergence of new pin feathers on its bald patch, with the emerging new feathers still enclosed within the feather sheaths (left). Obviously the damaged old feathers are being replaced by new feathers.
Some birds drop their feathers when frightened, a phenomenon known as fright or shock moult. This is seen in nightjars and some other birds. Did this kingfisher drop its feathers as a result of fright? Was its head feathers grabbed by a predator? We need more field observations.
This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.