Whiskered Treeswifts Hemiprocne comata are common forest birds, often seen at the open edges or trails. I have observed nesting in the past but not the initial first step in nest building. On 4th August 2022 at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, I had an opportunity to observe nesting building initiation.
Earlier in the same day, I had spotted a female Whiskered Treeswift that had occupied a branch for a considerable amount of time with intermittent foraging. As I was watching birds in that area, I kept an occasional eye on the bird.
At 9.15am the bird flew off the perch and landed on the bare branch of another tree. It had a feather in its beak (see image 1). It then proceeded to consider that branch as a potential nesting location (see image 2). I continued watching as it brought the feather to the branch a number of times but there was no nest building. It then flew back to the original branch that I had seen it on. I wondered if my observations, at 8-9 meters, could have hindered nest building.
It then began nest building at the original perching or ‘support-branch’ site. The feather was used as the first nesting building activity. It was brought down to the branch, held with a foot and anchored with salivary cement (Wells 1999). Saliva was added a number of times (see composite image 3). The bird then flew off and came back to add more material. The male was located about 10 meters away on the bare branch of another tall tree, possibly on lookout duty. I also wondered if the feather used was taken from the bird itself or found in the forest; I am inclined to think it came from the bird.
The location of the nesting site was 10 meters up, on a very thin bare branch of a forest tree, species unknown (see Image 4). Wells (1999) notes nests are usually “9-40 m above ground” and “fully exposed, allowing unobstructed access and an all-round view”.
I decided to leave so as not to impair the nesting activity and so did not observe further activity and any male involvement (documented in literature).
I reelevated my observations and realised that the first branch choice was abandoned, not due to my presence, but as an inappropriate site. The branch was possibly too thick and perhaps sloping too steeply. In my own observations, and from images of nesting by others, the nest site is usually located on a ‘pencil-thin twig’ (Wells 1999). This may be as a deterrent from mammalian predators.
My observations suggest that nest nesting building initiation may begin with the use of a single feather.
Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
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