Birds feeding on alate termites

on 13th July 2010

“There has been an extensive discussion on the BSEGroup regarding whether Yellow Vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier analis) are feeding on termites or involved in a ‘rain-dance’ (as it has been termed). The discussion has also included what conditions are required for such termite or flying ant events that lead to a feeding frenzy – see HERE and HERE.

“Today on my way to work at 7.30am, just 500 meters from home and still within my housing estate, I saw another episode. This was happening in the grounds of an army camp and this limited access. There had been no rain the night before or this morning. I rushed back for my camera, at the expense of being late for work. Took a quick video using the car as a stand and then tried to document individual birds, as the videos so far have not shown the feeding events well.

“This is a fast moving activity and it is difficult to focus on a single bird far away. Decided to use a low zoom, lean against the car, focus on a bamboo clump close to the action and try my luck at catching individual birds.

“Attached is a composites [of various species feeding] which I hope will show what I have been experiencing since childhood.

“The birds are feeding on termites or flying ants. Although Yellow Vented Bulbuls predominate, there were many Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis strigata), a few Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis tristis). I suspect (but no evidence) that some Pacific Swallows (Hirundo tahitica javanica) joined in – could just be passing by.

“It is a very quick/fast activity with every bird scrambling to get as many bites as possible. I watched for 15 minutes and the activity continued although the frenzy has lessened.

“I rushed back home and on to work and about 1.5 km from home saw the same activity when I stopped at a traffic light. This one involved Yellow Vented Bulbuls with Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis maculates).

“In addition, in the past I have also seen Oriental Magpie Robins (Copsychus saularis saularis) involved.

“Most have been after heavy/prolonged rain, late evening with a preceding hot day. This one was in the cool of the morning.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Canning Garden Home, Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
9th July 2010

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. Yes, I agree with the bird & termites. At dusk when the winged-termites emerge out of their mounds and fly around, you’ll find various birds giving us a Spectacular Airshow. Right from the small humble Tailor-bird to the mighty Black-kites, all seem to enjoy the snacks provided occassionally by the termites. The Magpie Robins have even adapted themselves to hunt for these even after darkness by the light of street lamps. This is aregular phenomenon, the more species ina habitat, the more spaectacular and vivid the happening is.This is only a Feeding-Frenzy habit.

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