Nesting of spotted doves (Spilopelia chinensis) Part 2: From nest to chicks

posted in: birds, Feeding chicks, Nesting | 0

Below is Chua Wei Siong and Wenyi’s continuing documentation of the chicks’ development. The parent birds can be seen shading the chicks from the hot sun beating down on them, tidying the nest, grooming the chicks and feeding the chicks by regurgitating food from the crop. The parents engage in calls and a dance while changing shift.


Nesting of spotted doves (Spilopelia chinensis) Part 1

posted in: birds, Nests | 0

Spotted doves are also known as long-tailed pigeons. It was formerly known as Streptopelia chinensis. 

Chua Wei Siong and Wenyi live in Paya Lebar, Singapore and managed to document a pair of these pigeons nesting on their window sill. The apartment is below the 5th level of the building.  Here is Wei Siong and Wenyi’s account of their observations:

We didn’t notice the dove building a nest as it was behind the window with curtain. When we first noticed it, we saw the dove with eggs. The birds took turns to be at the nest and there were some moments when we witnessed the change of guards. We also saw the hatchlings getting fed from their parents. 

Watch their excellent video below:


Common Myna – fruit feeding (new food source)

posted in: birds, Feeding-plants | 0

Although the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis tristis) is an omnivore with a wide range of diet, I have predominantly seen it take insects and invertebrates, with the occasional small vertebrate (frog or lizard). Its generic name ‘Acridotheres’ mean ‘grasshopper hunter’. Nectar and fruit feeding, although reported, are less commonly observed. I have seen it at fruiting Ficus benjamina in the past but not seen actual fruit feeding. At my home I have seen it take the fruit of the Azadirachta indica (Neem Tree). Today I saw 4 birds feeding actively on a fruiting Ficus (see below). Fruit was taken whole and not processed. It will also feed on/drink the nectar of Spathodea campanulata (African Tulip Tree) held in the flower-cups.

For my region, Wells (2009) notes that it takes the following fruits: Berries of GlochidionVitex pinnata (also called V. pubescens) and the flesh of Jambu & Papaya.

Internationally, Handbook of Birds of the World 2019 adds the following fruit items: Figs, Dates, Apples, Pears, Tomatoes, Strawberries, Grapes, Guava, Mango, Breadfruit and Jackfruit.

An image search offered 2 images (one in OBI) of it eating a Ficus but piece-meal, a few images (same bird) at a fruiting Glochidion, 3 images of it eating some fruit (possibly papaya) either discarded or offered by man.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

28th January 2019


Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Urban environment

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld


Cuckoo for ID (Indian vs Oriental)

posted in: birds, Identification | 0

Saw this adult male Cuckoo today and I am trying to determine the identification. Using terminology, distribution and features from: Johannes Erritzøe, Clive F. Mann, Frederik P. Brammer and Richard A. Fuller. Cuckoos of the World, Helm, 2012. Also using Wells 1999, HBW 2019, and other references for identification.


For Cuculus Cuckoos the possibilities are:

Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus)

Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus)

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) – does not reach far south enough

Sunda Cuckoo (Cuculus lepidus) – confined to the highlands in Peninsular Malaysia

So I am trying to differentiate between Oriental & Indian Cuckoos.

I have seen the Indian Cuckoo well in the past and this bird overall did not look like one (jizz). I think it is an Oriental Cuckoo. Appreciate any opinions and clarification.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

28th February 2019


Location: Ulu Kinta Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Previously logged forest with secondary growth and some residual primary forest

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld


Cattle Egret – Pectinate Claw

posted in: birds, Morphology-Develop. | 0

A local veterinarian friend contacted me for some advice on a Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis coromundus) that was brought in with a broken wing (fractured femur). I took the opportunity to further my interest in the pectinate claws of birds. Watching or imaging a pectinate claw/toe in the wild is quite difficult and I have only imaged three species so far, including the Large-tailed Nightjar who has been resident in our home garden for 2 years.

There are differing opinions as to the function of the pectinate claws in birds. Gill (2007) states: “Herons, nightjars, and barn owls have miniature combs on their middle toe claws that are used in grooming”. McKilligan (2005) says in describing herons, egrets and bitterns “A characteristic of the heron family is the serrated edge of the claw of each third (middle) toe. This claw is described a ‘pectinate’ and is used as a comb by the bird in feather maintenance”. Many other sites and literature repeat this opinion and that pectinate claw combs out ectoparasites. Some also point out variation is size and shape of the pectinate claws among different birds.

The most comprehensive work is by Clayton et al (2010). They describe a review of 118 bird families and found that only 17 possessed pectinate claws; these included herons, nightjars, owls, frigatebirds, terns, grebes, and cormorants. They state that “The efficiency of scratching for ectoparasite control may be enhanced by the presence of a comb-like pectinate claw on the middle toes of some birds”. “The removal of ectoparasites is most widely believed to be the function of pectinate claws, but alternative hypotheses include roles in feeding, removing powder down, or straightening rictal bristles of the face”.

My personal observations of birds grooming have not revealed any bird actually using the pectinate claws for parasite removal or for actual “combing” of the feathers but this activity is not easy to document.

Our home-resident Large-tailed Nightjar’s preening episodes have been extensively watched with video recording and not revealed any such behaviour. Most times the claw is used for scratching and the beak for preening.

The pectinate claws on the Cattle Egret that I observed up close were located on the middle toes. They are not easy to see in some directions and look different from different perspectives. The images show the pectinate claws from different angles and lighting. Claws are small and I used a macro lens for imaging. The serrated edge component is situated on the proximal part of the middle claw/toe. The claws are both 18 mm in length and the serrated edge component occupies 14 mm. The serrations vary in height but are ~1.3 mm (largest) and curved inwards.

1. Frank B. Gill. Ornithology. 3rd Edition 2007.
2. Neil McKilligan 2005. Herons, egrets and bitterns: Their Biology and Conservation in Australia. Csiro Publishing.
3. Clayton, Koop, Harbison, Moyer, Bush. 2010. How Birds Combat Ectoparasites. The Open Ornithology Journal 3: 41–71.

Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
6th February 2020

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Urban envirment
Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED

Zebra Dove – mating

posted in: birds, Courtship-Mating | 0

Took a complete Coronavirus free day to enjoy birds and nature (within the restrictions of our partial lockdown). Observe a pair of Zebra Doves (Geopelia striata) mating (above).

Courtship involves the male bowing and lifting up of the tail with accompanying cooing calls. There is also a ‘begging’ posture (above) by the male as he woos the female.

Louds calls before and after mating. I observed three episodes of copulation

Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
21st May 2020

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Urban environment
Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED 

Attracting bats to your garden…

posted in: Bats | 0

Common Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis) are usually found during the day roosting in caves, on the under-surface of flyovers, under the eaves of houses, on branches of trees, etc. With the coming of dusk they fly off in search of food. Most of the time they bring their food to eat while hanging down from their roost. They thus dirty the ground below with their droppings and food remnants. And if you want to photograph bats, you need to visit their roosting sites or their feeding areas after dusk.

Dr. Francis Seow-Cohen had a different idea. He managed to lure bats to his garden so that he could photograph them in comfort. This he did in May 2020. He stuck a partially peeled banana at a leaf base of a young palm. He kept vigil after dusk with his camera at the ready. At around 7pm, not one but two bats flew in to get at the banana. Unable to bring the banana back to their roost, the two bats flew around, taking turns to cling onto the banana to take bites. The bats left only when the banana was totally eaten.

Common Fruit Bats roosting under the roof of a porch HERE and taking nectar from banana flowers HERE.

Dogtooth Cat Snake

posted in: Habitat, Snake | 0

Dogtooth Cat Snake

Family   Colubridae
Boiga cynodon


A rather long snake. Photo credit: Dr Seow-Choen


Video of a very active snake in locomotion. Video courtesy of Dr Seow-Choen.


Dogtooth Cat Snake. Distinctive dark streak behind the eye.
Photo credit: Dr Seow-Choen


There are estimated to be more than 5,000 species of snakes in the world. About two third of these living snakes belong to the Family Colubridae. They are a highly diverse group of individuals.

Around our region, peninsular Malaysia is said to have at least 141 snake species on land and in the water. Of these only 16 species of land snake and all 21 species of water snake are significantly venomous.

Dogtooth Cat snake (DTC) is mildly venomous. Its venom usually only cause slight pain and swelling to human when bitten, but is lethal to small birds. It is one of the four cat snake species (Boiga) found in Singapore. The others include the Gold-ringed Cat snake (Boiga melanota) and Jasper cat snake (Boiga jaspidea). The fourth species is the white-spotted cat snake (Boiga drapiezii) that was not seen for a long time but rediscovered in 2009 by Leong T.M., Lim K.K. and Baker N.

DTC got its name because like the cat, its big eye responds with a vertically elliptic pupil in strong light. This elliptic pupil characteristic points to a nocturnal predatory pattern. It has a rounded snout with relatively large front teeth in both upper and lower jaws. Two of these teeth are again larger than the others, giving the impression of being fangs. The real fangs are fixed fangs situated in the rear of the mouth. The large front teeth and big false front fangs (like dog’s canines) may have resulted in its dogtooth name.

DTC is endemic to Asia. It can grow up to 2.8m in length but it looks slender and thin. This is due to the fact that it is compressed side to side (laterally), giving it a prominent vertebra ridge.

Dorsally, it is reddish-brown/dark-brown in color with irregular black bands running transversely. In some you may see additional tan/yellow parallel cross bands. A few may have extra black melanin pigments, resulting in a black looking snake. However they still have the distinctive thick dark streak behind each eye. Ventrally, its belly varies from whitish to light brown.

DTC has a triangular head, much wider than its neck. This can be confused with the head of a viper. It is usually nocturnal and arboreal. It feeds on birds, their eggs, lizards, bats, frogs and rodents. It is oviparous, lays 6-12 eggs in one clutch. The young are independent at hatching and do not receive any maternal care.

DTC are usually found in lowland forest, especially at its edges. It tends to shy away from human habitations but are attracted to chickens, eggs and birds in cages. So chicken keepers beware!

Rats/mice are pests of economic and medical importance. They are important partly because of their very high potential reproductive rate. This can be seen in the recent mice explosion in the rural communities in New South Wales, Australian. Mice can be seen everywhere on the farms, tons and tons of them. Rodents eat up and contaminate the farm produce. Singapore may not have many farms but we have plenty of warehouses for storing our imported food. Hence, rodent population control is of top priority. Many snakes eat rats. There are stories of warehouse owners keeping pythons to keep rat populations down. Rodents are also carriers of diseases like leptospirosis, salmonellosis, scrub typhus, murine typhus and other helminthic sickness.

At least 15 species of local burrowing snakes (Leptotyphlopidae also known as blind snakes) are ecologically important as they help us by eating up termites.

Thus we should leave harmless snakes alone. In fact, more than two thirds of the species in the region are harmless.

Article by Wong Kais


Photos and Video Courtesy of

Dr Francis Seow-Choen

Honorary Research Associate, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah, Malaysia

Honorary Research Affiliate, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore

Honorary Research Associate, National Biodiversity Centre, National Parks Board, Singapore



  1. Nature in Singapore, 2, 487 – 493
  2. A guide to THE AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES of Singapore by Kelvin KP Lim and Francis LK Lim
  3. Singapore Biodiversity : An encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development.  Edited by Peter K>L> Ng, Richard T. Corlett and Hugh T.W. Tan © 2011

Zebra Dove – male calls/song post mating

posted in: birds, Vocalisation | 0

I observed a male Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) calling out loudly post mating. Wells (1999) states that the male sings as they sit side by side and describes the song in detail. This post copulation song was intermittent but extended for 3-4 minutes, with 28 notes per minute that were spaced out evenly; each lasting ~0.5 seconds. I wonder if it was a call to advertise territory post mating? 

The call can be heard here:

A sonogram and waveform of calls are given above. 
Wells, D.R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. Vol. 1. Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.
Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
21st May 2020

Habitat: Urban environment
Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED 

Plain Flowerpecker feeding on mistletoe fruit

posted in: birds, Feeding-plants | 0

A single Plain Flowerpecker (Dicaeum concolor [minullum] borneanum) was seen feeding on the fruits of the Rusty-leaf Mistletoe (Scurrula ferruginea).

Food of items I have observed Plain Flowerpeckers feeding on:
1.    Scurrula ferruginea (Rusty-leaf Mistletoe) – native plant, fruit and nectar feeding
2.    Melastoma malabathricum (Straits rhododendron) – native plant, fruit feeding
3.    Other unidentified Mistletoe
4.    Bridelia tomentosa fruit.
Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
22nd February 2021

Location: Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Primary forest 
Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

25 Responses

  1. kris

    I just found a young dollarbird in the garden.. It seems to have left the nest too early and cannot fly yet. How am i to keep and feed it for a few days untill it can fly.???

  2. Iwan

    We have a small pond in our garden surrounded by trees and steep bedrock. The other day we saw a heron flying over and attempting to land – I guess to try to eat our small stock of fish. We managed to frighten it away before it landed, and have since installed trip wires around the pond in order to dissuade the bird. The amount of shelter around the pond means that a heron would have to land practically vertically. Does anyone know whether these birds have the agility to hover and land in this way, or do they always need a “glidepath” in order to land successfully?

  3. Khng Eu Meng

    Today, at the former Bidadari Cemetery, there was a buzz about a sighting of a Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). I heard some birders say this nightjar isn’t commonly seen in Singapore. After some hunting, we spotted it asleep on a tree branch, some 15 m above ground. This was rather interesting as my previous encounters with nightjars have been on either terra firma or on low branches.

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline:

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

    1)Which is the best spot in Bidadari cemetery for bird watch?

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

    3)What are some of the rare bird species that can be found at Bidadari?

    4)Where is the particular hot spot for the hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and some of the rare migratory bird?

    5)Which part of Bidadari are richest in it wildlife?

    6)Can you name me the 59 migratory bird species found?

  5. YC

    Why not search the website using the word ‘Bidadari’ to obtain the information you need. There should be sufficient info in past postings to satisfy you.

  6. Firdaus Razak

    Hai, I just want to ask did anybody had an experience bring bird from oversea via MasKargo? Did the bird will stress at high altitude?

  7. Chung Wah

    Hi, I am new to bird photography! Could anyone advise a good pair of binoculars to get for this hobby?

  8. Geam Liang

    I ‘acquired’ a female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 5 days ago – was in a public place when the bird flew overhead hit the wall and dropped right in front of me dazed. I picked it up, it appeared unhurt but could not sustain it’s flight. I have since constructed a fairly large ‘cage’ for it, about 4ft x 2fx x 2ft and placed it there last night. I temporarily placed her in a normal bird cage until I had completed the build.
    From what I have read up, it’s a fruit, seed and insect feeder and also nectar, flower buds. It’s doing as well as it can on bananas, papaya, jack-fruit (didn’t touch the grape) and seeds (black and white sunflower and other smaller ones). It loves to bathe so I’ve gotten it a tray and from what I read it’s important to keep things clean as it easily succumbs to infection.
    Does anyone else have any useful experience and sharing on it’s upkeep? I suspect this bird is an escapee – as far as I can read up, it’s not common, if at all, found in Georgetown, Penang where I am. I’m also not optimistic that it can survive if I were to set it free – assuming it can sustain it’s flight and not go crashing down and if there were dogs/cats around that would be the end of it.
    I can attach some pictures but not sure how to do this…

  9. Lee Chiu San

    The blue-crowned hanging parrot, even though very closely related to the lovebirds, is a nectar feeder. You would raise it the way you raise a lorikeet – which is a messy process. And because you are mixing batches of food for just one little bird, whereas I used to do it for about half a dozen pigeon-sized lorikeets each morning, I don’t know how you are going to get the portions down to manageable sizes. Anyway, here goes, with my recipe for feeding big lories. You can adjust the proportions down accordingly for your little bird.

    The staple diet would be a couple of slices of soft fruit (papaya, apple, grapes, even though I am surprised that you said the bird would not eat any) and a mixture of cooked rice sweetened with nectar mix.

    How to make nectar mix? Go to a pharmacy and get a can of food for invalids or infants. I use Complan, but I am sure any good baby formula would do. I usually make up enough to fill a beer mug, but there is no way you need that amount for a day’s feeding. If in doubt, make the mixture thinner, not thicker. Birds cannot digest baby formula that is too thick. If it is too thin, they simply have to consume more to get the required amount of energy. Then to this mug, add half a teaspoonful of rose syrup. Also stir in about a cup of cooked rice, well mashed up.

    In the case of your bird, I suggest that you pour this lot into an ice-cube tray, freeze the mixture, and defrost one cube to feed it each day.

    Now, you said that this bird eats sunflower seeds. This is most unusual for a blue-crowned hanging parrot. Are you sure that this is actually the species you have? Could it be possible that you have actually got a pet lovebird that escaped? There are so many different artificially-created breeds of lovebirds in so many colours that you might have been mistaken.

    If you actually have a lovebird, feeding is much simpler. Just go to the nearest pet shop, buy a packet of budgerigar or cockatiel seed of a reputable international brand, and offer it to the bird. You can supplement this with a couple of slices of fruit each day, and that will be all. Plus of course fresh water and a piece of cuttlefish bone to nibble on.

  10. Lee Chiu San

    About nectar feeding birds. I forgot to add that feeding nectar is messy, and it goes rancid very quickly in our tropical weather. Feeding containers have to be removed and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. The birds also splatter the mixture and wipe their beaks on perches and the bars of the cage. All my lories and lorikeets used to be housed in outdoor aviaries which were hosed down daily.

    If Geam Liang does not think the bird will survive if released, I really hope that it is a case of mistaken identity, and that you have a lovebird, rather than a blue-crowned hanging parrot. In our part of the world, all available lovebirds are domestically bred, take to captivity readily, and are easy to feed with commercially available seed mixtures. Yes, and being domestic pets, they would not survive if released.

  11. Geam Liang

    Thank you Chiu San for your inputs. Thus far, bananas and papayas work well. I’m not sure why it did not take to grapes – will try again. Am I supposed to peel it? I didn’t the last time, basically skewered a couple of grapes to a satay stick and positioned it as I did for the sliced and skinned papaya and peeled bananas.
    I have yet to try rice and certainly not nectar but will try out your concoction – have half a mind to go to a pet shop to see if they carry nectar for birds. The ice-cube freeze method is a good one, will try that. I might be mistaken on the sunflower seeds… not touched but it did eat the much smaller roundish, mixed colored seeds. Will remove the sunflower seeds.
    I’m sure it’s a female blue crowned hanging parrot.. it sleeps like a bat every night.

  12. Lee Chiu San

    When feeding local birds which are unfamiliar with imported fruits such as grapes, it helps to split the fruits to expose the edible parts. As to your remark that the bird sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, yes, that is the way blue-crowned hanging parrots sleep.

  13. Geam Liang

    Thanks… I need to think like a bird – yup. She has probably not seen a grape much less know that it’s edible, unless the previous owner has fed her with grapes… even then… Today she’s done pretty well making the most of the banana and all of the papaya plus quite a bit of seeds. Will try the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup.
    Will regular honey do instead of rose syrup?

  14. Lee Chiu San

    About making nectar to feed birds. Most aviculturalists do not use honey for two reasons: 1. It is expensive and does not seem to give any added benefits. 2. Honey is made by bees, and the composition varies wildly. Some honeys are also known to cause fungal infection in birds.

    If you do not want to buy a huge bottle of rose syrup just for one tiny bird, there are cheaper alternatives. The first is plain table sugar, though most don’t seem to like it very much.

    What many birds will accept quite readily as a sweetener is condensed milk – the type with sugar that coffee shop owners use.

    Many, many birds have a sweet tooth (or should I say sweet beak?) Besides the usual suspects of lories, lorikeets, sunbirds and hummingbirds, for whom it is an essential part of the diet, nectar mixture is readily consumed by mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, barbets, doves, parrots of all kinds, and a whole host of other species.

  15. Geam Liang

    I tried the condensed mild, placed in in a small bottle cap.. only the ants showed interest. Am I supposed to dilute it? I didn’t =( I took you advice and refrained from honey. Have yet to find Rose Syrup from the shelves of TESCO… will try to mix the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup/sugar syrup this week…

  16. David Thackray

    Can anyone help me identify a bird I saw in Singapore last week. Size of a smakll dove or thrush. Dark metallic back. Grey breast with red throat, chest.

  17. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers

  18. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers.

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

    One of best souce for the bird watcher’s enjoying knowledge about ornithology

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at a University in Switzerland and I urgently need to get in touch with photographer Chan Yoke Meng, who takes beautiful photographs of birds near Singapore. Would you please mail me the email address of this photographer!


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