Bathing Oriental Magpie Robin

on 2nd October 2010

“It was a hot and sunny mid-day at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Walking under the shady trees along a footpath that was lined with tall bushes on one side, I was curious and looked beyond the plants through the gaps in the vegetation. Lo and behold! There was a small clearing that was well hidden from normal view. Standing quietly in a shallow stream that was behind the bushes were three Oriental Magpie Robins (Copsychus saularis). An adult male and its two juveniles were obviously preparing to bathe (left).

“As the two juveniles watched, the adult commenced by dipping and submerging its head into the water. Soon, the water was agitated by the quick motion of the bird’s head bobbing up and down and twisting left and right. This was followed by a few vigorous twists of its body in the water. Feathers were ruffled and wings were flapped to shake away the water. After a few rounds, it left the water to perch on a rock to dry itself. Clearly, it was good idea to cool down by taking a bath during hot weather and this adult was perhaps mentoring the juveniles to indulge in such activity for cooling down. Water may also have entered its throat for a much needed thirst quencher.

“It did not take long for the juveniles to do the same and bathe in the slow moving stream (above). From the time captured in the images, the entire bathing episode for this family of robins lasted 1 minute and 23 seconds before flying out of view.

“It may be of interest to note that one of the juveniles’ tail feathers seemed to be completely white and without any black (above right). This was not noticed in the field when I was too engrossed in capturing the pictures. It was discovered only while reviewing the images. The normal colour of the long tail feathers is black on the topside and white on the underside. Usually, only the blacks are visible on the topside of the tail. The white tail feathers are underneath and covered by the black tail feathers. The whites, which may be visible at times along the outer sides of the tail, are only more obvious and prominent when the tail is fanned.”

Kwong Wai Chong
24th September 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.

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