Oriental Pratincole: broken wing display and vocalisation

posted in: Miscellaneous, Nesting, Vocalisation | 0

A flock of at least 30 nesting Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum) (left) was located by Ping-Kong Lee at the New Housing Estate, south of Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia on 28th May 2010. Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS immediately went to investigate after getting directions from Jing-Yi Tou.

It is a large piece of land designated for housing, formerly an oil palm estate. About 1.5 by 1 km in diameter, the area comprises mainly dark red or sandy earth with patches of coarse grass and a few small bushes that have sprung up from dung deposited by Water Buffalos (Bubalus arnee) that roam the area with their herders. Nearby is a small river and there are two water lily ponds around. However, the area is transitional. Although planned for housing, development has yet to start. Can the birds complete breeding before development sets in?

Amar explored the area, estimating the population of the pratincole to be around 30 or possibly more. The birds were very sensitive to his presence as they were in breeding mode. Thus it was not easy to make an accurate count. In a nearby grassy field there was a smaller population of the pratincole.

“Oriental Pratincoles generally only breed in the very north of our peninsular,” relates Amar. “There have been sporadic reports of over-wintering and breeding in the northern states but not to my knowledge this far south on the west coast (see Wells 1999, p 296).”

Ping-Kong managed to see one nest. Amar was less successful but was sure there were at least four breeding pairs, possibly more, as they birds were actively distracting him away from their hidden nests. The birds put on various forms of ‘broken wing displays’. Flying off when approached to land nearby pretending to be injured being the commonest. The ‘broken wing’ could be either one wing or both wings, with the bird often lying down on the sand (above, below).

A earlier post shows similar observation, although uncertain as to its nature.

“Having watched numerous, I am sure this is a distraction technique to protect the nesting site. I saw many such displays that lead me to believe that there are at four least breeding pairs (gross underestimate) and possibly many more,” adds Amar.

These three common calls were made while flying 1, 2 and 3. Recording 3 has a mixture of a loud ‘chip’ with the common call. The adults seemed to be cooperating communally to deal with the intruder (Amar). The distress call can be heard HERE. The following two calls (1a and 2a) were made by many adults to each other while being wary of Amar’s presence. They appeared to be “…discussing my presence. It seemed to be a social networking kind of call – somehow emotionally supportive and reassuring each other. They were soft single syllable chirps,” concludes Amar.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Ping-Kong Lee & Jing-Yi Tou
Malaysia
June 2010

Reference:
Wells, D.R., 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London. 648 pp.

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