Early Flight of A Juvenile Dollarbird

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“It was end April 2012 when this pair of Blue-throated Bee-Eaters (Merops viridis) was discovered high on a barren tree against a backdrop of clear blue sky. They seemed to be basking in the the warmth of the late afternoon sun. The serene atmosphere was suddenly tensed up as the bee-eaters became perked-up and seemed imminent to launch into flight. Their state of alert was due to an approaching bird – a juvenile Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis).

“The juvenile Dollarbird ended up landing on a perch just an arm length away from the bee-eater on the lower perch (above left). It landed clumsily and had to spend a few seconds to balance itself. Immediately, the lower-perched bee-eater took off leaving behind its partner above the Dollarbird. Less than a minute later, the parent of the juvenile appeared. It landed on a barren branch on another tree just a short distance away. The parent did not perch for long. It took barely less than half a minute for a short breather before taking off again. It flew teasingly close to the juvenile before flying further away (above right). This could be a strategy or method used to urge and motivate young birds to follow during their early flights. All this while, the juvenile had been calling out to its parent and it called out to its parent as it watched the adult flew past.

“The juvenile did not follow its parent. The adult landed in an other tree that was quite a distance away. There, it waited. The juvenile remained for a full minute before it plucked up enough courage to take the plunge. With wings spreading beautifully and then beating in up and down strokes, it flew off in the direction of its parent. As it flew past, a blue sheen on its upper wing coverts could be seen. Cannot be missed was the white patch on its wing that was said to resemble the dollar coin that gave the Dollarbird its name (above).

“While it cannot be ascertain that this juvenile had just fledged, it must have fledged not too long ago. Judging from the juvenile’s behaviour, this must have been one of its early flights after fledging. The adult Dollarbird was obviously keeping a watchful eye on its juvenile and thus performing its role as a parent.”

Kwong Wai Chong
2nd July 2012

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