Masked Finfoot – immature male, foraging and roosting

“The Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata) is a rare migrant and is globally vulnerable with some estimates putting it at fewer than 1,000 mature individuals (J. C. Eames in litt. 2007, see: HERE).

“I am grateful to Connie Khoo, a bird watching colleague, who alerted me when she spotted one. We were fortunate to see an immature male (from speckled white in face mask at throat) and were able to watch foraging for the better part of a morning and evening. The ex-mining pool where the bird was is large and access to the bird limited by distance which impaired photography, but not observations with a scope.

Some key observations:
“Foraging: As been documented (see Well 1999) it feeds while in the water.

1. It preferred to forage at the far edge where there was overhanging foliage (see above on habitat) at the base of a limestone outcropping.

2. We saw it take fish on a number of occasions. Also seen diving like a grebe and disappearing underwater.

3. However the preferred method of feeding appeared to be to snatch insects/invertebrates from the overhanging foliage.

“[The above] composite of two different feeding events, the bottom of a fish, and the top of a moth-like insect taken from foliage that fell on the water and was retaken.

“The second composite (above) shows this behaviour of snatching food from overhanging foliage. Once seen taking what looked like a caterpillar and another time a moth or butterfly. Connie has also noted it eating a snail.

1. On two occasions (the night before and this day) the bird was seen climbing into a tree to roost. The height of roosting was approximately 2.5-3 meters.

2. Roosting was around 5-6pm and associated with an extended period of preening.

“Roosting in trees is a recognised behaviour -see HERE.

Social behaviour:
“I saw it interact with a White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) that was foraging in the same location. It actively engaged the waterhen and chased it off (above).

“A good report can be found in Birding Asia: Chris R. Shepherd. Some recent behavioural observations of Masked Finfoot Heliopais personata in Selangor Darul Ehsan, Peninsular Malaysia. Birding ASIA 5 (2006): 69–71. (Article is open access).”

As the feet are lobed they allow good movement on land. Connie saw that the bird did not fly up the tree but walked up it HERE.

“Although literature says the feet are largely light green and bright yellow, notice in these images posted HERE.

Connie Khoo & Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
24th December 2012

Location: Outskirts of Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Ex-mining pools, some used for fish farming, limestone hills nearby
Conditions: Overcast grey morning & evening

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