Nictitating membrane and very soft calls of White-Throated Kingfisher

on 23rd June 2011

“I was driving out to run an errand when I spotted a White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) on the barbed wire of the perimeter fence in my condo. This is the location where a Brown Shrike could be seen almost daily from my apartment during its winter migration visits. The BS has gone home since early May. The Kingfisher has taken over its place now. With the bird in the open and the morning sun shining brightly, it was showing its colours in full glory!

“I drove my car slowly to a halt getting as near as possible to the bird while maintaining a position safe yet allowing me to take pictures without getting out of the car. I folded the remote-controlled wing mirror, switched off the car engine to reduce vibration, moved to the passenger seat and then stick out the camera with my head still inside the car, which was possible because of the articulate LCD screen. The bird remained in the same position.

“I quickly snapped a few stills because they offered higher resolution. I then switched to the video mode. Remembering the comments made by Margie Hall regarding birds singing softly to themselves LIMK, I turned off the car radio as well.

“Subsequently when I reviewed my recordings from the PC, I was pleasantly surprised that I have captured its soft calls, in spite of the presence of loud traffic and other man-made noises. Indeed I missed hearing these calls initially when I used the built-in speakers of the monitor. It was only when I switched to my favourite high quality headphone that the calls became audible.

“The other pleasant surprise was that, after repeated viewings, I noticed the bird blinked @26′, 44′, and 52′ respectively of my video. The attached sequential screen shots show movements of the nictitating membrane @26′ (above left, clear eye; above centre, half closed; above right, fully closed).

“The next time when you see a White-Throated Kingfisher bobs it head, strain your ears and listen carefully, you may be able to hear its soft calls.”

Sun Chong Hong
12th June 2011

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

3 Responses

  1. Nice. I must say I have never noticed this gentle call before….probably don’t listen enough.

    Sun Chong Hong — you are making a good contribution with your recordings and videos. You deserve appreciation

  2. Thanks for the compliments, Howard. This proves yet again the power of videography in catching fleeting moments which are easily missed.

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