Nesting of the Pied Fantail: 2. Egg incubation

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“I am continuing this post on our resident nesting Pied Fantails (Rhipidura javanica longicaudata) that I sent earlier LINK.

“As the nest is very accessible we have grossly restricted our approach to it. They allow us to watch from 0.5-2.5 meters depending on the direction we approach. My wife can even water the garden around the nest provided she keeps some distance (2 meters). I can drive into the home (driveway) and look at them in the eye from the car at 0.5 meters but only with windows up. I have taken very few images to limit harm and only when they have left the nest or through the tinted car window (this worsens images but has to be done). No flash has been used. So far four direct visits to the nest to peep in (just barely can look in) and take rapid images blindly over 30-45 seconds.

Observations & Timeline:
“The nest is just 1.5 metres off the ground built in our Bauhinia kokiana creeper. Construction began on 23/04/2011 (Day 1) and finished on 05/05/2011 (Day 13) with some stops and starts.

“Frantic activity followed by a lull and then at it again. Both partners helped in nest building although one was more active (female?).

“On 09/05/2011 the first egg was laid early in the morning. Unfortunately we had to leave that morning to participate in an international conference in Vietnam. We expect that the second egg would have been laid soon after (same day or next).

“When we returned on the 15/05/2011 there were two eggs in the nest (above).

“The incubation period is 12-15 days (see Wells 2007) and we have just touched D12 today and still no hatching yet.

“The eggs are yellow-cream colour and have a differential pattern. Half are clean and paler, the other half a bit darker and speckled grey/brown. The eggs have darkened a little from the first day.

Incubation & Change Over Behaviour
“Although it is reported that there are frequent change-over, our observations over a few days is otherwise. One bird (female?) spends much more time incubating than the other. The two birds seem to have a different preference to how they orientate themselves in the nest. The longer stay one (female?) points forward (above left), the other backward (above right). The forward pointing one spends hours in the nest and takes short breaks to feed. In the early mornings 4.30am to about 7 plus am the forward pointing one remains in the nest while the other goes to the top of our canopy of trees and singing ‘his’ heart out for 2-3 hours continually. So we more often see one bird in than the other.

“I have also woken up in the early hours of the morning (old age I suspect) and have heard the presumed male singing as early at 3.45 am.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS & Datin Dr Swee-Im Lim
Canning Garden Home, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
9-19th May 2011

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