Blue-throated Bee-eater: 11. Reflection

on 29th July 2009

Check out the earlier parts of the Blue-throated Bee-eaters (Merops viridis) saga: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Micky Lim a.k.a. limmick has been “baby sitting” these four chicks since their rescue. And it has been a stressful time as they demand to be fed constantly. The cage also needs cleaning and its occupants their regular dry-cleaning.

Although the chicks ate heartily and growing well as seen in the increase in size and feather development, there was always the worry of imprinting. Can the chicks survive when released into the wild? Would they be able to forage in the absence of handouts of mealworms? Will they be able to recognise predators and avoid them? Normally, the adults would be around to teach the chicks once they fledge and leave the safety of the nest. The adults would still feed them but slowly get them to forage on their own. In this case they would be on their own. A bleak future indeed.

As seen in the above image, their state of growth varies. The oldest (below) has its wing and tail feathers nearly fully developed, although its throat and head feathers have yet to be fully unsheathed. However, the younger chicks are covered with pine feathers that have yet to begin unsheathing. They have much growing up to do.


Long term documentation of birds can result in emotional attachment to the extent that the photographers feel for their safety. Thus the decision to rescue the chicks when their nests were in danger of being obliterated. This was not interfering with nature. Rather, it was interfering with human activities that interfered with nature. Unfortunately, due to the rapidity of developmental activities, there was no choice but to dig the nests up, although a reprieve of a week or so may just see more chicks fledging naturally. There will definitely be controversies well after the dust have settled. But one significant factor emerged – the unanimous decision of the photographers who were then documenting the nesting to go ahead with the rescue.

For decades citizen scientists have been involved in documenting birds in Singapore (also, see “Watching Birdwatchers Watching Birds”). Since the early 2000s, bird photographers have been at the forefront of bird sightings and the study of bird behaviour. And this is the first occasion where citizen scientists got involved in a mass rescue of chicks in Singapore. Previously, a few concerned citizens may pick up a displaced chick in the misguided notion that hand-rearing it would contribute in its survival. This may not be so – see HERE. But mass rescue in the face of human activities? This is a first! And it speaks well for bird photographers.

Images by Micky Lim.

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

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

2 Responses

  1. The earlier rescues involved older chicks about ready to fledge. The chicks were kept for a short while and released. The last rescue involved young chicks and they probably did not survive.

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