On 30th March 2015, Simon van der Meulen wrote to Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS” about an unusual behavior of a Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler (Pomatorhinus montanus) that he documented in Thailand:
“I recently visited the Hala Bala WLS in South Thailand; I was actually a few hundred meters from the Malaysian border. There we encountered a Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler and I’m somewhat struggling to understand its initial display as shown in enclosed picture. As it flew into our vision it stuck to a branch with both wings spread and kept that posture for some 30-45 seconds after which it flew to a nearby branch and assumed a ‘normal’ posture.
“The pictured posture somewhat resembles that of a bird that fakes a slight injury in order to distract attention from a nearby nest (at least that’s what I’ve seen on a previous occasion in Europe).
Would you (or your friends from BESG) have an explanation for it?”
This is Amar’s response:
“There is little information I can find on social behaviour of the Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler. I think there are two possibilites to explain this behaviour:
1. The first is your suggestion, a distraction technique when we are close to it’s nest. Akin to the ‘broken wing’ display of many birds. This is still the most likely reason.
2. The second possibility is a courtship display. We may not have seen the female(s) nearby to recognise this happening. We know so little about courtship displays in most birds and I have seen some in common birds that surprised me.”
Anyone who has any opinion on the above behavior, please respond. Thanks.