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“I had several opportunities in the past to observe successful parenting and fledglings of Coppersmith Barbets (Megalaima haemacephala) closer to home. I had often wondered how deep those excavated nesting chambers parental pairs had to create to keep their chicks in, to include roosting themselves at nightfall and on wet days.

“Last early April 2011, I lost the first opportunity to secure a newly fledged nesting branch. In March 2012, I came across another opportunity when parenting pair was on its last phase of fledging their two chicks. I wasn’t going to miss it this time as the height of the nesting branch was retrievable.

“During one of my birding rounds, a parenting Coppersmith Barbet was spotted making a delivery of a berry. My eyes followed the ‘food forwarding Avian Express’ to a horizontal branch of a dead Albizia (Paraserianthes falcataria) tree- amongst a row of similar, near perimeter of an apartment block. The branch was about four metres off ground (left).

“When fledging day came and went, I waited another two more weeks until school holidays was over before permission was obtained and engaged the services of the duty gardener to retrieve the nesting branch with ladder and saw.

“An added bonus was, an old nesting cavity was alongside the branch of the recently fledged nesting cavity. So it was, two for the price of one – ‘killing two birds with one stone’ …so to speak with opportunity for depth comparison.

“So it was back to biology home class for a practical session and here a specimen report to enlighten and entertain my favourite readers. A dead Albizia tree branch comprising two nesting cavities -A & B (below left). The dried out branch felt light, porous and sawn with ease. All measurements were taken by measuring tape and caliper. Measurements: LENGTH: 85 cm; WT: 1450 g; Average external circumference: 32 cm.

“The specimen was sawn into two sections separating the two nesting cavities. Section Cavity A (Extreme left) – old nesting cavity with nest entrance opening partially fractured/weathered off at distal end with hollow exposed (below right).

“Measurements: LENGTH OF BRANCH: 23 cm; WT: 350 g; Internal Chamber Diameter: 6.2 cm; Depth of Chamber: 10.6 cm; Contents of cavity: Clean.

“Section Cavity B (Newly fledged nesting cavity) (below left). A cross-section lengthwise was made to view interior chamber. Another view to show entrance cavity to chamber and interior blind end (below right).

“Measurements: LENGTH OF BRANCH: 62 cm; WEIGHT: 1100 g; Entrance diameter of nest cavity: 3.1 cm; Internal chamber diameter: 5.5 cm (minimum) tapering to blind end. Depth/length of nesting chamber 31.1 cm.

“When branch was split, a sourish odour emitted from the specimen. Minimal debris noted apart from fresh saw dusts. Insects – ant species have made tunnels and nested into the interior chamber walls. Perhaps explained by the fact that collection date was 12th March 2012; thirteen days after two chicks fledged (below left).

“Chiseled marks noted all around interior walls of chamber made by remarkable parenting pair showed good carpentry skills (above right).

“My curiosity satiated and decided, perhaps the next opportunity for a get-together, a family treat of garlic bread of baguette, molded idea provided by courtesy of Pascoe and Pascale- the parenting pair of Coppersmith Barbets would be in order!

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright article and copy images:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund
25th May 2012

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