Less Common Calls of the Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus)

posted in: bird, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Calls | 0
Black-and-yellow Broadbill at Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18th July 2022.

Many of us would be familiar with the classical calls of the Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus). Wells (2007) describes this call as “the loud advertising call, given by both sexes, is a sustained, rattling trill, accelerating up to scale to a sharp cut off”. I have heard this advertising call often; one juvenile I have heard made a shorter, softer version.

I do not have access to the definitive work by Lambert and Woodcock (1996) where they describe many other vocalisations for this species. Wells (2007) states that “not all of the rest of the vocabulary described by Lambert and Woodcock has been reported from the review area”.

One additional call that is occasionally heard and also reported by Wells (2007) is a curious drawn-out mewing-like call. I have heard it on a very few occasions; once during what appeared to be a courtship event with wing displays. I have also heard and reported these unusual calls by a pair of birds as being made before the ascending advertising calls; there was a rapid transition from the mewing to the advertising calls.

Gulson-Castillo and colleagues (2019) describe “higher pitched and squeakier” soft vocalisations associated with wing displays. These could be the same unusual calls we are discussing here.

Black-and-yellow Broadbill calls, Sono. Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia-18th July 2022.

On 18th July 2022 at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, I observed an adult male, at 7.50am, making these less common “screeching mew” (Wells 2007) calls again. I only saw a single bird that was moving from branch to branch, high in the canopy, only making the screeching mew calls (no advertising calls). The bird was very vocal for about 5 minutes. There were no wing displays or feeding behaviour seen. Calls were made 3-5 seconds apart (often 2-3 seconds apart), lasting 0.75 seconds and had both high and low frequency components. An image of the male bird making the calls and a sonogram / waveform are attached.

A call recording can be heard herehttps://xeno-canto.org/738088

At present I would suggest that these calls seem to have some social interaction role, possibly a part of courtship. But more observation is required.

References:

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Frank Lambert, Martin Woodcock (1996). Pittas, Broadbills and Asities. Pica Press
  3. Gulson-Castillo, Pegan, Greig, et al (2019). Notes on nesting, territoriality and behaviour of broadbills (Eurylaimidae, Calyptomenidae) and pittas (Pittidae) in Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 139(1): 8-27.

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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Common Iora juvenile calling to be fed

posted in: bird, Common Iora, Feeding chicks | 0
A Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) spotted at Bukit Gombak Park on 18 June 2022. Soh Kam Yung thinks it is a juvenile, as he heard it constantly calling, until another (adult) bird came along and fed it.
Photo 1: The juvenile Common Iora calling.
Photo 2: The juvenile Common Iora faced another direction and continued calling.
Photo 3: An adult bird hopped to the juvenile bird and fed it.

 

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Nesting of the Chestnut-winged Babbler Cyanoderma erythropterum

posted in: bird, Chestnut-winged babbler, Nesting | 0

This short note is to summarise observations of the Chestnut-winged Babbler (Cyanoderma erythropterum) nesting. Understanding regarding the breeding biology of this babbler is limited. 

Wells (2007) offers the most detailed account and describes nests as “sited in a tangle of scrambling ferns, in creepers, between a creeper and pair of sapling stems, in a sapling fork, or lodged in the frond-axil of a rattan, 0.3-8m up, mainly towards the lower end of this range. Nests (easily mistaken for trapped litter) are more or less globular with a dorso-lateral entrance, built of dead leaves and leaf skeletons, often large, including palm- or bamboo leaflets, and lined loosely with fine stems and fibre.” Wells (2007) also reports that although most records of nest-building involved just a pair of birds, in two instances a group of 3–5 individuals participated. 

Sheldon, Moyle, and Kennard (2001) report two nests in Sabah and state “nest building was observed twice …. once in two small, adjacent trees about 2 m from the ground in primary forest (Oct 1981) …. and again 4 m up in a Macaranga tree (June 1982) ….. more than two birds were involved in nest building and the nest was not completed”; one “nest was comprised of lacy dead leaves woven with leaf stems and caulked with moss. It was domed, 18 cm high, with a side entrance”. 

There are two other nest reports; one by myself in April 2017 at Perak (see references) and another by Laurence Eu and Alan OwYong in May 2018 at Singapore (see references). The Singapore report describes nest building adjacent to a forest track that was then abandoned and a second nest then constructed about 2 metres from the walking track. Alan OwYong (2018) describes the second nest as “about 20 cm wide, made out of a cluster of dry leaves and twigs, attached to an intertwined mass of leaves and thin branches; the entrance is just a small hole by the front side of the nest; the nest was at mid storey”. This second nest was also abandoned.

To date I have observed three nests at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, all spotted during the construction phase. The nest construction was seen in April 2017, October 2021 and July 2022. The first nest (April 2017, see Image 1 and 2) was built about 2.5 meters above the ground in a bamboo thicket, immediately adjacent to a trail in primary jungle. The birds were using a large dead Macaranga gigantea (Giant Macaranga) leaf that had fallen and lodged on the bamboo, as the ‘base’ for the nest.  

Image 1. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 30 April 2017.
Image 2: Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 30 April 2017.

The second nest (October 2021, see Image 3) was also close to a trail in primary jungle (2 meters) and located in dense undergrowth on a slope leading to a stream, possibly 0.3-0.4 metres above the ground (not easy to estimate due to density of vegetation and slope of terrain). This second nest was not possible to approach.

Image 3: Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 21 October 2021.

The third nest (July 2022, see Image 4, 5, and 6) was approximately 3.5 meters above the forest floor and located in a tangle of creepers in front of a large tree; again it was near a jungle path (5 meters in). 

Image 4: Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 12 July 2022.
Image 5: Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 12 July 2022.
Image 6: Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak. 12 July 2022.

All three nests could easily be confused for some leaf litter that is collected or trapped in the vegetation. They are globular in shape with a front entrance. Nesting material used in all three nests was dried leaves, especially dead bamboo leaves. Leaf skeletons/spines of leaves and fragments of leaves were also used. Nesting material was often collected some distance from the nest site. No calls were made when near the nest. In all three nesting observations I only saw one pair, and both were actively involved in nest building. 

On all three occasions, the birds seemed comfortable with me watching from about 5-6 meters distance and continued with nest building activities. However, I am aware that Chestnut-winged Babblers abandon nesting sites very easily and kept my observations brief (15 min first nest, 5 min subsequent two nests). However, in the first nest observation, as expected due to proximity to the trail and fragile siting of the nest, it was abandoned when visited a week later. The second nest was successful but very limited follow up observations were possible (due to terrain difficulties in watching the nest) – no data on food for young or incubation and fledging periods. This third nest appears to be just completed and I hope it offers an opportunity to watch breeding activities.

 

References:

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Sheldon, F. H., R. G. Moyle, and J. Kennard (2001). Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Ornithological Monographs 52. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C., USA.
  3. Amar-Singh HSS (2017). Chestnut-winged Babbler – nest building. Bird Ecology Study Group. <https://besgroup.org/2017/05/22/chestnut-winged-babbler-nest-building/>
  4. Laurence Eu and Alan OwYong (2018). Nest building by a pair of Chestnut-winged Babblers in Singapore. Singapore Bird Group. <https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/nest-building-by-a-pair-of-chestnut-winged-babblers-in-singapore/>

 

 Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

 

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This short note is to summarise observations of the Chestnut-winged Babbler (Cyanoderma erythropterum) nesting. Understanding regarding the breeding biology of this babbler is limited.

 

Wells (2007) offers the most detailed account and describes nests as “sited in a tangle of scrambling ferns, in creepers, between a creeper and pair of sapling stems, in a sapling fork, or lodged in the frond-axil of a rattan, 0.3-8m up, mainly towards the lower end of this range. Nests (easily mistaken for trapped litter) are more or less globular with a dorso-lateral entrance, built of dead leaves and leaf skeletons, often large, including palm- or bamboo leaflets, and lined loosely with fine stems and fibre.” Wells (2007) also reports that although most records of nest-building involved just a pair of birds, in two instances a group of 3–5 individuals participated.

 

Sheldon, Moyle, and Kennard (2001) report two nests in Sabah and state “nest building was observed twice …. once in two small, adjacent trees about 2 m from the ground in primary forest (Oct 1981) …. and again 4 m up in a Macaranga tree (June 1982) ….. more than two birds were involved in nest building and the nest was not completed”; one “nest was comprised of lacy dead leaves woven with leaf stems and caulked with moss. It

was domed, 18 cm high, with a side entrance”.

 

There are two other nest reports; one by myself in April 2017 at Perak (see references) and another by Laurence Eu and Alan OwYong in May 2018 at Singapore (see references). The Singapore report describes nest building adjacent to a forest track that was then abandoned and a second nest then constructed about 2 metres from the walking track. Alan OwYong (2018) describes the second nest as “about 20 cm wide, made out of a cluster of dry leaves and twigs, attached to an intertwined mass of leaves and thin branches; the entrance is just a small hole by the front side of the nest; the nest was at mid storey”. This second nest was also abandoned.

 

To date I have observed three nests at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, all spotted during the construction phase. The nest construction was seen in April 2017, October 2021 and July 2022. The first nest (April 2017, see Image 1 and 2) was built about 2.5 meters above the ground in a bamboo thicket, immediately adjacent to a trail in primary jungle. The birds were using a large dead Macaranga gigantea (Giant Macaranga) leaf that had fallen and lodged on the bamboo, as the ‘base’ for the nest. The second nest (October 2021, see Image 3) was also close to a trail in primary jungle (2 meters) and located in dense undergrowth on a slope leading to a stream, possibly 0.3-0.4 metres above the ground (not easy to estimate due to density of vegetation and slope of terrain). This second nest was not possible to approach. The third nest (July 2022, see Image 4, 5, and 6) was approximately 3.5 meters above the forest floor and located in a tangle of creepers in front of a large tree; again it was near a jungle path (5 meters in).

 

All three nests could easily be confused for some leaf litter that is collected or trapped in the vegetation. They are globular in shape with a front entrance. Nesting material used in all three nests was dried leaves, especially dead bamboo leaves. Leaf skeletons/spines of leaves and fragments of leaves were also used. Nesting material was often collected some distance from the nest site. No calls were made when near the nest. In all three nesting observations I only saw one pair, and both were actively involved in nest building.

 

On all three occasions, the birds seemed comfortable with me watching from about 5-6 meters distance and continued with nest building activities. However, I am aware that Chestnut-winged Babblers abandon nesting sites very easily and kept my observations brief (15 min first nest, 5 min subsequent two nests). However, in the first nest observation, as expected due to proximity to the trail and fragile siting of the nest, it was abandoned when visited a week later. The second nest was successful but very limited follow up observations were possible (due to terrain difficulties in watching the nest) – no data on food for young or incubation and fledging periods. This third nest appears to be just completed and I hope it offers an opportunity to watch breeding activities.

 

References:

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Sheldon, F. H., R. G. Moyle, and J. Kennard (2001). Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Ornithological Monographs 52. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C., USA.
  3. Amar-Singh HSS (2017). Chestnut-winged Babbler – nest building. Bird Ecology Study Group. <https://besgroup.org/2017/05/22/chestnut-winged-babbler-nest-building/>
  4. Laurence Eu and Alan OwYong (2018). Nest building by a pair of Chestnut-winged Babblers in Singapore. Singapore Bird Group. <https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/nest-building-by-a-pair-of-chestnut-winged-babblers-in-singapore/>

 

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

 

Black and Golden Cicada, Huechys fusca mating

Soh Kam Yung spotted the seldom seen Black and Golden Cicada (Huechys fusca) at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park on 11 July 2022. He was delighted to have encountered a mating pair too.
Photo 1: Rear to rear mating position in Black and Golden Cicada.
Photo 2: Top view of mating pair.
Photo 3: Dorsal view of a Black and Golden cicada, Huechys fusca.
Photo 4: Dorso-lateral view of a Huechys fusca.
Photo 5: Side view of a Black and Golden Cicada clinging to a dried leaf.
References:
1. Male Black and Golden Cicada calling by Leong Tzi Ming https://youtu.be/JdD1qjuSWBA
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A Sample of Malayan Fauna

posted in: Amphibians-Reptiles, birds, Mammals | 0

The gallery below showcases a small sample of the fauna that the intrepid and talented nature photographer Gan Lee Hsia encountered.   She travelled through the length of the Malayan Peninsula and visited nature areas to capture these images digitally.

Photo 1: Peninsular Horned Tree Lizard, Acanthosaura armata. Bukit Bendera, Penang. 18 June 2022.
Photo 2: Dusky Langur baby, Trachipithecus obscurus. Bukit Bendera, Penang. 15 June 2022.
Photo 3: Dusky Langur baby scrambling on tree branch. Bukit Bendera, Penang. 15 June 2022.
Photo 4: Grey-bellied Bulbul, Ixodia cyaniventris. Taman Rimba, Teluk Bahang, Penang. 15 June 2022.
Photo 5: Indochinese Blue Flycatcher, Cyornis sumatrensis. Penang National Park. 11 June 2022.
Photo 6: Rufous-backed Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx rufidorsa. Sungai Congkak, Selangor, Malaysia. 1 June 2022.
Photo 7: Hairy-backed Bulbul, Tricholestes criniger. Johor. 31 May 2022.
Photo 8: Rufous piculet, Sasia abnormis. Johor. 7 June 2022.
Photo 9: Scaly-crowned babbler, Malacopteron cinereum. Johor. 3 June 2022.
Photo 10: Banded Broadbill, Eurylaimus javanicus. Panti Forest, Kota Tinggi, Johor. 9 June 2022.
Photo 11: Male Red-naped Trogon, Harpactes kasumba. Panti Forest, Johor. 30 May 2022.
Photo 12: Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker male, Prionochillus percussus. Panti, Johor. 29 May 2022.
Photo 13: Scarlet-rumped Trogon male, Harpactes duvaucelii. Panti, Johor. 27 May 2022.
Photo 14: Scarlet-rumped Trogon female, Harpactes duvaucelii. Panti, Johor. 27 May 2022.
Photo 15: Red-bearded Bee-eater male, Nyctyornis amictus. Panti, Johor. 26 May 2022.

 

All photographs are attributed to Gan Lee Hsia.

 

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Bird galore at Sungei Congkak, Selangor

posted in: birds | 0

Art Toh and his birding friends travelled to Sungai Congkak Recreational Forest, Selangor, Malaysia on 15 June 2022 when the borders opened. He had an exhilarating time sighting and photographing birds he was seeing for the first time. Photographer parlance for this is ‘lifers’. Below is a gallery of some of the birds that captivated Art and made this trip so unforgettable.

Photo 1: Silver-breasted Broadbill, Serilophus lunatus.
Photo 2: Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Actenoides concretus.
Photo 3: Scaly-breasted Bulbul, Ixodia squamata.
Photo 4: Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Arachnothera modesta.
Photo 5: Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Culicicapa ceylonensis.
Photo 6: White-chested Babbler, Pellorneum rostratum.
Photo 7: Verditer Flycatcher, Eumyias thalassinus.
Photo 8: Spectacled Bulbul, Ixodia erythropthalmos.
Photo 9: Golden-whiskered Barbet, Psilopogon chrysopogon.
Photo 10: Purple-naped Sunbird, Kurochkinegramma hypogrammicum.
Photo 11: Striped-throated Bulbul, Pycnonotus finlaysoni.
Photo 12: Sooty Barbet, Caloramphus hayii.
Photo 13: Pig-tailed macaque, Macaca nemestrina.

Art also visited Panti Forest, Kota Tinggi, Johor on 19.6.22 and captured the portrait of a handsome creature, the Pig-tailed macaque which is also known as berok to the locals. This is a vulnerable species. Its common name is an allusion to its short tail that bears resemblance to that of pigs. They are known to disperse seeds of forest plants like the commercially important rattans. The animals found in Singapore are believed to be escaped pets.

 

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_pig-tailed_macaque

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Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus ignicapilla) with animal prey

The Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus ignicapilla) is considered an “obligate frugivore” (Wells 2007). Cheke and Mann (2001) describe the diet as fruit and possibly nectar and pollen of mistletoes (Loranthaceae). Food items identified by Wells (2007) includes the fruit of Melastoma malabathricumFicus aurantiacea and Syzygium aqueum (Eugenia aquea). 

On 13th June 2022, at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, I observed an adult female Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker searching for prey in a tree which had no fruit or flowers (Image 1). I then saw it acquire a caterpillar (Image 2). Once it had caught the caterpillar, the bird flew off immediately without consuming the prey. I assume this was to bring the prey to its juvenile(s); nest and juveniles were not seen. Identity of the flowerpecker can be seen better in the third image, which was taken moments earlier in a brighter location.

Photo 1: An adult female Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker searching for prey in a tree which had no fruit or flowers.
Photo 2: The bird later emerged from the foliage with a caterpillar in its beak.
Photo 3: The bird came into full view and Amar was able to establish its identity.

In the past I have seen it rob spider webs and take spiders; presumably again as food for juveniles. It is possible that many bird species, where adults predominantly feed on fruits or nectar, will feed their juveniles animal prey (insects) as a protein source for early growth and development. 

A Summary of Food Items I have Personally Observed

Piper aduncum (Tree Pepper or Spiked Pepper) – feed on the fruiting stalks

Clidemia hirta (Hairy Clidemia) – feed on fruit; a favourite food

Melastoma malabathricum (Straits Rhododendron) – feed on fruit

Bridelia tomentosa – feed on fruit; fruit is 4.5-6.5mm in diameter

Ficus villosa – feed on fruit

Ficus consociate – feed on fruit 

Ficus benjamina – feed on fruit

Psidium guajava (Guava) – feed on fruit

Syzygium samarangense (Eugenia aquea, Water Jambu) – feed on fruit

Muntingia calabura (Village Cherry) – feed on fruit

Trema tomentosa (Rough Trema) – feed on fruit

Mistletoe species (unknown) – feed on fruit

Also 4 other small jungle berries (one a creeper) of unknown identity. 

An online image search, including the Macaulay Library, shows this species feeding on many types of Ficus fruit, other types of berries, and open ripe Mango and Averrhoa carambola (Star Fruit). 

This species is an occasional participant of lowland mixed foraging parties (bird waves).

 

References:

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passarines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Robert A Cheke, Clive F Mann, Richard Allen (2001). Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World. Helm Identification Guides.

  

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Read the post https://besgroup.org/2021/10/14/crimson-breasted-flowerpecker-diet/ about Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker foraging behaviour and this post https://besgroup.org/2008/12/19/the-male-crimson-breasted-flowerpecker/ about the difficulty in photographing this species.

 

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Hadada Ibis foraging in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur

posted in: bird, Feeding strategy, Hadada ibis | 1

The Hadada Ibis, Bostrychia hagedash, is native to sub-Saharan Africa. The pair of birds can be positively identified by the iridescent green wing feathers and the white stripe across its cheeks. Also the down-curved bill is  greyish and the legs are black. The birds are monogamous and pair for life. The hadada ibises love open grasslands, urban parks and gardens. They feed on insects, spiders, millipedes, earthworms, garden snails and small lizards.  Vaneezha Muniandi shared her photographs of the birds on the campus grounds of the Methodist College Kuala Lumpur. The college is located in Brickfields in the city, adjacent to the Klang River. The birds are in breeding plumage.

Photo 1: The hadada ibis silhouetted against a tall building. 6 July 2022. 2.30 pm
Photo 2: A hadada ibis foraging on the campus grounds of Methodist College Kuala Lumpur. 6 July 2022 2.30 pm
Photo 3: A bird foraging on another part of the campus grounds on another day. 8 July 2022 9.24 am
Photo 4: Two hadada ibises foraging together on the campus grounds. The iridescent wing feathers stand out against the dull coloured feathers. 8 July 2022 9.25 am
Photo 5: The grass on the campus grounds harbours a lot of grubs suitable for the dietary needs of the ibises. 8 July 2022 9.25 am
Photo 6: One of the ibises wanders close to the campus area with human activities. 8 July 2022 9.25 am
Photo 7: Both birds forage in area where human traffic can be frequent and intense at periodic intervals. 8 July 2022. 9.26 am
Photo 8: One of the ibises flew up to rest on a tree branch ( Raintree, Samanea saman). 8 July 2022. 9.26 am

 

Read this post about the presence of Hadada ibises in Malaysia https://besgroup.org/2018/10/03/hadada-ibis/

 

View this You-tube Shorts which Vaneezha recorded with her handphone camera.

  https://youtube.com/shorts/SRj3I1pRBhw  

Also view Ng Di Lin’s You-tube Shorts of a Hadada Ibis calling.

https://youtube.com/shorts/rPSk2lF82vY?feature=share

 

Article shared by Vaneezha Muniandy and Ng Di Lin.

8 July 2022.

 

Read this post which shows a vagrant glossy ibis that looks similar to the Hadada ibis in some small measures.  https://besgroup.org/2017/01/20/glossy-ibis-a-vagrant-in-malaysia/ .

 

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Vocal Mimicry: Why do some birds mimic the calls of other birds?

posted in: bird, Mimicry | 0
Photo 1: A pair of Common Hill Mynah, Gracula religiosa.

 

Photo 2: A common mynah, Acridotheres tristis. Ipoh, Perak. 28 Jan 2019

 

I have often heard some birds mimic the calls of others. When I was a child, I was fascinated by a Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa) held captive by a neighbour that had been trained to vocalise some human words. In our garden the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristisand Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) will produce the occasional interesting variation in calls or songs borrowed from other species. 

Photo 3: A male jungle fowl, Gallus gallus. Ipoh, Perak. 11 April 2020.

 

Photo 4: A Black and Yellow Broadbill, Eurylaimus ochromalus. Ulu Kinta, Ipoh, Perak. 8 June 2020.

However, in my experience, the vocal mimic master in the lowland forest is the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus). On many occasions I have been misled and searched long for a babbler or rare sounding bird, only to discover that it is the mimicry of a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. I have heard them imitate the crowing of a Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), the sound of a motorbike engine, and even parts of the call of Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus). The video recording (link here: https://youtu.be/nm-8BWqQnaQ, calls start at 15 seconds into the video), taken in January 2020, shows a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo imitating the song of a Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (Mixornis gularis). 

Wells (2007) notes that they can mimic various raptors, cuckoos, pittas, waders and a laughingthrush. There is a longer list of bird calls that they mimic in the Birds of the World (Rocamora et al 2020), including woodpeckers, hornbills, babblers, etc. 

Hence the question is why do they perform this mimicry of other birds or even of environmental sounds? I have not conducted any study on this and can only rely on personal field observations and the excellent work of others. 

The possible reasons for mimicry suggested include (not exhaustive): 

  1. Sexual selection

It is possible that the ability to mimic the song of other bird species makes the male more attractive to the female and enhances the possibility of attracting and getting a mate. This has been postulated for the great mimic, the Australian Superb Lyrebird. Recent work by Dalziell and colleagues (2021) show that Lyrebirds may mimic the sound of ‘mobbing’ flock of birds to ‘trick’ females into mating. 

  1. Improve foraging and feeding efficiency

Goodale and Kotagama (2006) offer data that the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, mimics the songs and contact calls of other participants of a mixed foraging party to “increase their foraging efficiency”; “overall a mutualistic relationship”. My recording of the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo imitating the song of a Pin-striped Tit-Babbler may be associated with this type of behaviour.

Follows (2021) quotes the use of imitating raptor calls by the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo as means to make other bird fly-off and abandon their food to them.

It is said that some shrikes mimic the calls / songs of some songbirds to attract and feed on them (Atkinson 1997).

Brood parasite juveniles are able to imitate the calls of their host species to encourage feeding. 

  1. Territorial and threat function

There is suggestion that mimicry of calls and environmental sounds may serve a function to establish and maintain territory (Mayntz 2019; The Cornell Lab 2009). The “imitation of the alarm calls of other species … may get the attention of other species to help in the attack of a predator” (The Cornell Lab 2009). 

The most comprehensive, recent work on vocal mimicry is by Kelley and colleagues (2008), which attempts to use an evidence-based approach to understanding vocal mimicry. They state that “true vocal mimicry is typically considered to be the acquisition of sounds within an individual’s lifetime” as opposed to “mimicry caused by convergence over generations”. The authors state in their conclusion “we are no closer to determining even a single function for vocal mimicry…. this may, in part, be because of the relative paucity of work…”. “We conclude that there is no compelling evidence to support any of the functional hypotheses but, rather, that almost all of the data concerning song mimicry are consistent with the learning mistakes hypothesis, whereby birds learn simple and common sounds, frequently using them in inappropriate contexts. …. It is plausible that many examples of call mimicry are, in fact, due to evolutionary convergence. 

Much detailed work is still required to understand this interesting behaviour.

 

References:

  1. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passarines). Christopher Helm, London.
  2. Rocamora, G., D. Yeatman-Berthelot, and E. de Juana (2020). Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  3. Anastasia H. Dalziell, Alex C. Maisey, Robert D. Magrath and Justin A. Welbergen (2021). Male lyrebirds create a complex acoustic illusion of a mobbing flock during courtship and copulation. Current Biology. Volume 31, Issue 9, page 1970-1976. <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.02.003>
  4. Eben Goodale and Sarath W. Kotagama (2006). Vocal mimicry by a passerine bird attracts other species involved in mixed-species flocks. Animal Behaviour. Volume 72, Issue 2, pages 471-477.
  5. Mike Follows (2021). What is the evolutionary advantage of birds’ ability to mimic sounds? New Scientist. Magazine issue 3324, 6 March 2021. <https://www.newscientist.com/lastword/mg24933241-400-what-is-the-evolutionary-advantage-of-birds-ability-to-mimic-sounds/>
  6. Eric C. Atkinson (1997). Singing for Your Supper: Acoustical Luring of Avian Prey by Northern Shrikes. The Condor. Vol. 99, No. 1. <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242276103_Singing_for_Your_Supper_Acoustical_Luring_of_Avian_Prey_by_Northern_Shrikes>
  7. Melissa Mayntz (2019). Bird Mimics and Mimicry: Why Do Birds Use Vocal Mimicry? The Spruce <https://www.thespruce.com/bird-mimics-and-mimicry-386219>
  8. The Cornell Lab (2009). Why Do Some Birds Mimic The Sounds Of Other Species? <https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/why-do-some-birds-mimic-the-sounds-of-other-species/#:~:text=The%20female%20Thick%2Dbilled%20Euphonia,predator%20or%20other%20perceived%20threat>
  9. Laura A. Kelley, Rebecca L. Coe, Joah R. Madden and Susan D. Healy (2008). Vocal mimicry in songbirds. Animal Behaviour. Vol 76, Issue 3, pgs 521-528. <http://cognitioninthewild.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/files/2013/05/Kelly-2008-Vocal-mimicry-in-songbirds-.pdf>

  

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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House Crow gathering undeveloped fruits?

posted in: bird, Corvus splendens, Feeding strategy | 0

On 07 Jul 2022, I observed from my balcony, a House crow (Corvus splendens) flying to a Footstool palm (Saribus rotundifolius) searching for food. The tree was fruiting but the fruits were still green and therefore not ripe. The fruit will eventually change to bright orange and then turn dark, before ripening to a dark colour and eaten by birds.

Photos 1 and 2 show the crow immersing its head into the big bunch of fruits, diligently seeking for its target.

Photo 1: House crow searching for ripe fruits.
Photo 2: House crow searching for ripe fruits amongst the big bunch of fruits.

Photo 3 shows the bird successfully gathering the desired fruit which is dark but smaller than the green fruits that were still developing. The size differences between the green and dark fruits are very obvious in this photo. Could the smaller dark fruit be a fruit that may have stopped growing or even died?

Photo 3: The house crow found a dark coloured fruit. The fruit is much smaller in size than the unripe green fruits.

Photo 4 shows the bird gathering a few dark coloured fruits in its beak, in similar fashion to a barbet bird (Megalaimidae). It then flew off.

Photo 4: The house crow has gathered a few dark coloured fruits in its beak, in barbet (Family: Megalaimidae) style.

 

House crows are highly opportunistic birds and their diet consists of: refuse around human habitations, small reptiles, mammals, insects, other small invertebrates, eggs, nestlings, grain and fruits.

However, this observation made me wonder why a House crow would gather unripe and undeveloped fruits.

 

Thong Chow Ngian

7 July 2022

All photographs are copyrighted to Thong Chow Ngian.

 

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26 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: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151125012234135&set=a.108191464134.96538.617499134&type=1&theater

  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…
    thanks.

  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?
    Thanks.

  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!

    Thanks,
    Martin

  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

    Trust this email finds you well. We chance upon your photograph on your website and found the amazing image of the Laced Woodpecker and durians. We would like to explore the possibility of getting permission to use them for a new Bird Park in Singapore.

    Spacelogic is a company based in Singapore and we have been contracted by Mandai Park Development to carry out design and build works relating to the exhibition interpretive displays in this new Bird Park.

    Some background of the new Mandai Bird Park project; it will build upon the legacy of the Jurong Bird Park – https://www.wrs.com.sg/en/jurong-bird-park.html by retaining and building upon a world-reference bird collection and creating a place of colour and joy for all visitors. The new Bird Park will have a world-reference ornithological collection displayed in a highly immersive way with large walk-through habitats. To enhance visitors’ experience with storyline and narrative of the bird park, transition spaces are added to display exhibits that provide a varied type of fun, intuitive, interactive and educational experiences for all visitors. One of the habitats features the Laced Woodpecker on a flora panel It is in this flora panel that we are seeking your permission to feature the Laced Woodpecker. We are looking to use the first image on the link here.
    Link can be found here: https://besgroup.org/2012/06/28/laced-woodpecker-and-durians/

    We would like to ask if this is something that we can explore further and if yes, how can we go about with putting through a formal permission request. Thank you so much for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

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