Pied Fantail bathing behaviour and sexing

“The average bird interests us immensely. We have had a resident pair of Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica longicaudata) in our garden for the past 12 years and had numerous daily observations. They love to bath and so we have ensured we have always had a bird bath handy. They bath on the average 5-7 times daily (possibly more when the weather is hot).

“The usual bathing technique is as shown in the video above (as still images are tough).

“They piquet like a ballerina at the edge, and then dash in for a dip, out and in again. Often multiple dips before going to a nearby branch to preen. They are happy for us to watch without the camera and many friends have enjoyed them. This video was taken from behind the tinted screen door of our home, so clarity/focus has suffered a little.

“I am going to use this video to also suggest some idea on sexing, I may be wrong. It is hard to differentiate the sexes, and in literature, the female is stated a ‘slightly smaller’ than the male (see DR Wells 2007). In this video the current pair (partners) in our garden are both shown. I would like to suggest that the first seen in the video is a male and the second a female. We have noticed, based on our continual observation over many years, that the white supercilium is variable in size (i.e. ‘erectile’). It can also appear large and smaller in the same bird. However often one bird has a more prominent white supercilium compared to the other (as seen in the video) and we think this is the male.

“I have extracted some still images for comparison (have flipped the images horizontally to allow for easier comparison). The images have been cropped to the same size to try and preserve dimensions. In both images the presumed female is left (above right) or above (above left)). We have noticed that the white supercilium is more prominent when the bird is excited or upset.

‘Happy for opinions and this could just be fanciful thinking.

“Over the years we have all sorts of birds use the bird bath in a variety of ways, each usually with a style unique to the species. However we had this one Pied Fantail in January 2009 that was hydrophilic. This bird came very, very often and like to ‘swim’ in the bird bath. What it actually did was dive in and walk on the bottom of the dish. I did get one video of the bird in action (2 episodes) see video above:

“…Wish I had done more video work in those days.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS & Datin Dr Swee-Im Lim
Canning Garden Home
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
16th December 2011

2 Responses

  1. Lee Shin Ling

    Hi Dr Amar,

    How do we differentiate Oriental Magpie Robin and Pied Fantail? Both have black and white features on their bodies.


  2. Lee Chiu San

    The Pied Fantail and the Oriental Magpie Robin look quite different. Just review some photos of the two species and you can see the differences quite clearly. Also, the Pied Fantail has white on the head, whereas the Magpie Robin does not.

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