White-tailed Robin – Nesting Issues

posted in: birds, Nesting | 0

I was in Cameron Highlands on 25th April 2022 and observed a number of White-tailed Robins (Myiomela leucura leucura) nesting. One of the nesting birds interested me as I had seen this unusual behaviour before. I saw what appeared to be an immature (1st year) bird being a nest helper. I saw the bird bringing food to the nesting site a number of times.

Attached are two images of the bird. Note that the bird has a shining blue forehead which is not described in females (Wells 2007, Birds of the World 2022). If we follow the literature then this should be a first-year male.

I have seen similar nesting behaviour in the past and now am considered some options:

  1. Some first-year birds act as nest helpers. I am spotting the males (easier) but may miss the young females.
  2. Plumage change and development to full adult form in young males is slow (more than 1 year). Hence this could be the male partner involved in the nesting. However, in the past I have also seen full adult males at the same nesting site, so this option is doubtful.
  3. A third possibility is that some females have transient plumage changes during breeding. Hence this could be an adult female. But these are well imaged birds and I would expect more reports.

Appreciate other observations and experiences.

Note: There is one publication on White-tailed Robin plumage that suggests “both a light and darker plumage”. But it does not describe blue in the plumage of females.

Renner and Rappole (2011). Description Of First Basic Plumage Of Three Muscicapid Species Found In The Southeastern Sub-Himalayan Foothills, With Notes On Their Taxonomy And Ecology. Ornithological Monographs, Volume (2011), No. 70, 142–152. The American Ornithologists’.


Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


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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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