Battle for a nesting hole: Woodpecker vs Barbet

On the evening of 7th July 2018, GaoJian LiuJia witnessed a confrontation between a Banded Woodpecker (Chrysophlegma miniaceum) and a Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) at Wallace Education Centre, Dairy Farm Nature Park.

Banded Woodpecker attacking Red-crowned Barbet with its companion nearby – photo by GaoJian LiuJia.

The two hole-nesters were fighting to claim a nesting cavity excavated on the trunk of an old palm tree. The cavity could have been recently abandoned by an unknown pair of birds.

Banded Woodpecker dragging Red-crowned Barbet away from the nesting hole – photo by GaoJian LiuJia.

Nesting cavities are in short supply in Singapore as any old trees are removed as soon as detected, for safety reasons mainly. So, there is always a fight for such “real estate”.

Banded Woodpecker continued dragging Red-crowned Barbet away from the nesting hole – photo by GaoJian LiuJia.

The confrontation happened suddenly and ended two seconds later. But GaoJian was ready and managed a few interesting images to record the event.

Banded Woodpecker gave up dragging Red-crowned Barbet, flying off – photo by GaoJian LiuJia.

As is usually the case, the woodpecker moved as a pair. When the barbet flew to the opening of the nest cavity, one of the woodpecker immediately attacked the former, pulling it away from the cavity entrance (see sequence from top down). The woodpecker’s attempt was futile as the barbet clung on firmly to the palm.

On the following morning, Siew Mun witnessed the continuing saga of the battle for the nesting cavity. Two barbets were seen flying to the area. Nothing happened for more than 20 minutes until the arrival of the pair of woodpeckers. One cautiously entered the cavity while the other flew off. When the woodpecker inside the cavity emerged, it was suddenly attacked by a barbet. Both the barbet and the woodpecker then flew to a nearby tree.

The pair of Banded Woodpecker examining the nesting cavity – photo by Siew Mun.

The pair of barbets flew out of sight. The woodpeckers remained where they were for almost 15 minutes before flying to the palm tree to claim the nest cavity (above).

One of the pair of Banded Woodpeckers looking out of the nesting cavity – photo by Siew Mun.

The saga continues… Hopefully there would be photographers at the site to document further confrontations, if any.

GaoJian LiuJia & Siew Mun
7-8th July 2018

  1. Lee Chiu San

    Delighted to hear about a breeding pair of Red-Crowned Barbets. This is one of the very few Forest Barbet species still resident in Singapore. Hopefully, even if they do not get to use this particular tree hole, they will find a suitable residence to start a family somewhere else in the area.
    By the way, before Singapore began to enforce more stringent regulations against the importation of wild-caught birds, Red-Crowned Barbets were commonly available for sale in the pet shops here. They are not fussy about food, and even the wild-caught adults quickly become tame (though very noisy) pets.

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