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Asian Glossy Starlings catching alate termites

on 19th July 2010

Sun Chong Hong’s video of the Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis) darting about the sparse canopy of what looks like a young albizia tree (Paraserianthes falcataria) was recorded on a hot and humid evening of 17th April 2010. Hos account is given below:

“I think there was no rain before and after, though I am unable to recall with 100% certainty. I only realised the Yellow Vented Bulbuls’ (Pycnonotus goiavier) presence when I viewed the video after I transferred it to the pc.

“From my experience of having to close windows and doors when alate termites and ants invade my home, termites do swarm on hot weather in the evening, usually but not necessarily always after rain. I have googled for swarming facts which seemed to support my experience. Perhaps our friends here can share their experiences.

“It didn’t look like the starlings were exhibiting courtship behaviour, so my conclusion under the circumstances was that the starlings were taking the alates, even though they were too small to be seen.”

Jeremy Lee adds his input: “I wear a watch with barometer measurements, and it is common knowledge for those who have studied some basic meteorology that a sudden drop of atmospheric pressure precedes a thunderstorm. Most termite swarms do so before the rain, when they first detect that significant drop in pressure. No point of them running out only to get pounded by rain. They need to come out and fly and make a run for it and hopefully when the rain hits, they would have covered some distance and the rains would deter the birds from continuing the feast so that at least some would make it. That is my observation so far these years on termite swarming.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS adds: “I am not an entomologist but often I have seen the flying termites/ants swarm in the evenings after first a hot day and second a heavy downpour. I always assumed that the heavy rain flooded their homes forcing them to fly out. But that’s just a lame assumption on my part with no evidence. It could be that these conditions are triggers to swarm for mating. Sun CH may be right about no rain required every time, as our memories tend to be selective without documentation (especially when memory ennergrams are decaying with age).”

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.

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