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Pin-striped Tit-babbler – feeding behaviour or anting?

on 24th November 2012

On 16th November 2012, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS encountered a pair of Pin-striped Tit-babblers (Macronous gularis gularis) feeding along a trail through the primary forest of the Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.

“One of them captured a small black beetle (top) but instead of eating it immediately, it retained it in the beak for some time (above), even when preening (below),” wrote Amar. “I wonder if this was because it wanted to take the prey back to young at a nest. The supporting evidence is that only two adults were present, unlike the usual group of 5-7. Prey for this species is not well documented in Wells (2007).”

Note: If the bird is actually preening as in the image above, it has to take the feathers between its bill. But the bird has the beetle tightly clamped in its bill and appears to be moving the beetle over the feather. So is it possible that the Pin-striped Tit-babbler is actually anting – see this LINK.

According to Collar & Robson (2007), “anting and anting-like behaviour are relatively frequent and widespread among babblers, and deserve more investigation.” By anting-like behaviour, the authors are referring to birds using other than ants, like the sap from plant branches to scrub their feathers, or even dead snakes. Eisner & Aneshansley (2008) showed that Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) indulge in anting when offered bombardier beetles that are capable of spraying a noxious chemical LINK.

It is not known what species of beetle the tit-babbler caught and whether it is capable of spraying a chemical when irritated. Whatever the species, it is highly possible that the Pin-striped Tit-babbler was involving in anting-like behaviour.

We welcome comments from readers….

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
November 2012

References:
1.
Collar, N. J. & C. Robson, 2007. Family Timaliidae (Babblers). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.). Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 12. Picathartes to Tits and Chikadees. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 70-291.
2. Eisner, T. & D. Aneshansley, 2008. “Anting” in blue jays: evidence in support of a food-preparatory function. Chemoecology 18(4): 197-203.
3. Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

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.

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