A family of Chestnut-breasted Malkoha

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At 8.30 am on 19th April 2010, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS was moving along a trail in Ipoh’s Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Perak. The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris singularis) is fairly common here, and he was not to be disappointed. In fact he encountered five of them gliding overhead into tall trees ahead of him. To see this malkoha alone or even as a pair is usual. But five together was rather unusual.

He observed the birds for the next 15 minutes and took photographs to document this uncommonly seen social behaviour.

The five birds, one adult female (above left), one adult male (above right) and possibly two immature males, were foraging together high up in the canopy, moving from tree to tree. The immatures were feeding independently of the adults. Amar believes that this was a family unit – possibly a recent brood and still together before they go their separate ways.

Dr David R Wells, who examined the images, commented, “I have been through the photos you sent and point out that only one of these is of a juvenile. This is the individual with centre tail that lacks a rufous tip (above right). Note also the narrow, tapering shape of its tail feathers relative to other birds (above left). All the rest have moulted into adult plumage. So, your group is not as you have surmised, but surely still unusual. I don’t recall ever having seen a party of this species – not more than a pair and a fledgling – although the normal clutch seems to be two.”

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