Whimbrel in record migratory flight distance

posted in: Migration-Migrants, Waders | 2


Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) are large brown waders with a prominent curved bill. These birds breed in the subarctic and arctic regions and winter south, moving to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as all the way down to the southern parts of South America and Africa. In Singapore it is a common winter visitor and passage migrant, as shown in the image above, taken at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.


Researchers from the College of William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology and The Nature Conservancy in the US have observed the record-setting migration of a female Whimbrel named Winnie from its feeding grounds on the Delmarva Peninsula in the east coast of the US to breeding grounds on the McKenzie River near the Alaska-Canada border (see map, left).

Fitted with a state-of-the-art satellite tracking device weighing just over a third of an ounce, Winnie (left, insert) left the study area on 23rd May 2008, flying northwest at an average flight speed of nearly 22 miles per hour, covering more than 5,000 kilometers (3,200 miles) in no more than 146 hours. This is a new distance record in the flight range of this species. For more information, check out this LINK.

We thank Erin Zagursky, University Relations, College of William and Mary for updating us.

Joe McClain
July 2008
(Image of Whimbrel by Dr Eric Tan, that of Winnie and her migrating route courtesy of the Center for Conservation Biology, US)

Dark-throated Oriole catching caterpillar

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates | 0


The Dark-throated Oriole (Oriolus xanthonotus) is a resident of Malaysia but has disappeared from the Singapore scene.

The bird is a generalist, taking fruits like figs and insects. In the above image by Sandy Chian, the oriole is seen picking a caterpillar from the branch of a tree.

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

Yellow-vented Bulbul: A courtship behaviour

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 5

On 14th June 2008, a pair of Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) suddenly arrived in my garden and perched on the branches of a tree. The vocalisation of the pair was unfamiliar.

Usually, these bulbuls would make their familiar gurgling noises at their dawn chorus during certain periods of the year. These characteristic sounds can also be heard at other times of the day.

But the sound I heard was new to me – crack-crack-crack, to be answered by crick-crick-crick.

One of the bulbuls was quivering its wings and at the same time spreading and fluttering them. The tail feathers were somewhat spread and partially cocked. The plumage was fluffed (top left and middle).

Suddenly, one of the birds flew off, to return about a minute of so later with a long strand of fibre in its bill (top right). Nesting material?

They then left the scene, leaving me puzzled. Obviously, this was a form of courtship behaviour.

YC Wee
July 2008

Chinese Bamboo-partridge along the road to Zhangjiajie, China

posted in: Illegal-Irresponsible | 3


In many Asian countries, exotic wildlife attracts, not to view but to feast. Many eat exotic wildlife for various superstitious beliefs. And China was where Roger Moo a.k.a. cactus400D had his first encounter with the slaughter of the extremely beautiful Golden (Chrysolophus pictus) and Lady Amherst’s Pheasants (C. amherstiae) for food (above).


It was on the road to Zhangjiajie in the province of Hunan that he encountered a row of shops offering these peasants as well as a hog badger (Arctonyx collaris).

He also saw another bird offered to tourists – Chinese Bamboo-partridge (Bambusicola thoracica) (above). This bird is native to the bamboo forests of South China and Taiwan. Although not globally threatened, it is becoming uncommon in China through habitat destruction and over hunting.

For US$50 or thereabout, you can have a pheasant prepared and cooked on the spot. A partridge no doubt would cost less (above).

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

Hog badger identified by Haniman from the image shown in the earlier post.

What does a bee-eater do after a meal?

This was exactly what Liu Jianzhong a.k.a. Jz was thinking when he stalked a Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) some weeks back – and documented what it did.


The bee-eater had just had its fill of insects and glided with its wings flapping in slow motion to its favourite perch (above). There, it perched with its wings still held high for some time. Such characteristic “butterfly” display is not unusual among bee-eaters.

Such a display sometimes end with copulation, if there is another bird of the opposite sex present. But in this instance it simply proceeded with its comfort routine.


First, it preened its feathers (above left). Then it fluffed its plumage (above right). All these activities are necessary to keep the feathers in top condition. Then the bird indulged in stretching activities to keep the muscles in top condition and stimulate blood circulation, or so ornithologists believe.


It first stretched both its wings upwards, in a sort of “angel” posture (above). Then it stretched its right wing and right leg together, at the same time fanning its tail feathers (below left). This was followed by the left wing and left leg and similarly fanned its tail feathers (below right).


Finally, it cast a pellet of undigested insect exco-skeleton, etc. (below).


All images by Liu Jianzhong.

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

Golden Babbler catching stick insect

posted in: Feeding-vertebrates | 0

Adrian Lim a.k.a. wmw998 photographed a Golden Babbler (Stachyris chrysaea) in Peninsular Malaysia catching a phasmid (below). The bird had the stick insect’s head tightly clamped in its bill and bashed it against the branch. It then held the anterior end of the insect against the branch with its right foot and manipulated the other end with its bill in an effort to eat it.

Very little is known of what food this babbler takes, besides ants, caterpillars and the occasional berries. Stick insect is thus a new food record.

For the family Picathartidae, the food is dominated by insects and forest-floor invertebrates. These include beetles, termites, and ants. Other foods include earthworms, millipedes and centipedes. Small frogs and lizards are also taken, mostly to feed the young.

The Golden Babbler is a resident forest species in Peninsular Malaysia. It forages among the leaves of the lower and middle levels of the forest.

Collar, N. J. & Robson, C. (2007). Family Timaliidae (Babblers). Pp. 70-291 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 12. Picathartes to Tits and Chikadees. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

Feet of the Common Coot

posted in: Morphology-Develop. | 2


The Common Coot (Fulica atra) is a large bird that is generally quarrelsome. The charcoal plumage and flashy bill shield make it easy to recognise. The image above was taken by KC Tsang when he visited the London Wetland Centre in June 2008.

Found frequently in still or slow-moving freshwaters, the coot is a fully aquatic bird. It takes to the air rather reluctantly but they are strong fliers, compared to others in the family.


An unusual adaptation to its life in water is the large, scalloped toes (left top). These enlarged lateral lobes provide for efficient swimming. On land, the bird appears clumsy when moving around.

The lower image on the left shows the foot of the American Coot (F. americana), with the lobes folding when the foot is moved forward so that they will not cause drag. The lobes will fold out when traction is needed with backward movement.

Coots used to be popularly eaten in Britain at one time. Traditional coot shoots were once organized at large wetlands where huge winter flocks were common. And large numbers were shot for sport and food.

Richard Carden wrote: “Coming from the UK where coots are incredibly common and having lived in HK & Japan where coots are not uncommon, I was surprised that they are such a rare bird in this part of the world

“This was highlighted to me a couple of years ago in Bali. I was birding with Victor Mason, an infamous character, author of at least two Bali bird books and founder of Bali bird walks which has been operating for at least 30 years. We were searching for white browed crake when my girlfriend Kaori shouted that she had found one, she pointed to the middle of the lake where there was a very obvious coot paddling around. Calming her down and telling her she had not found our target bird it was just ‘O-ban’, the Japanese name for common coot, I shouted over to Victor, false alarm, just a common coot. Without shifting his gaze from the lake edge and the crake search Victor said impossible there are no coots in Bali. There are now I said, at least eight of them ! Victor nearly fell in the lake, it was his first new bird for Bali in more than 10 years. Last recorded in Bali in 1953 I believe and only a couple of other times in the last century

“The moral of the story I guess is that one of the things that makes our shared hobby so interesting is you never know what will turn up and when.

“Hope Kaori can find us some coots in Singapore.”

Well, there was a confirmed sighting of the coot in 1940 and two others in the 1980s. These, no doubt were rare vagrants. None have been seen since.

Images of Common Coot by KC Tsang, that of American Coot by Joyce Tan of Palo Alto, California, US.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk on webcam: Update

posted in: Nesting, Raptors | 0

Dave Culley recently sent images of the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) nesting in his garden in Cheshire, England. He has been monitoring the pair for some time now. These images here are of the 2008 nesting.

The brood of five chicks is seen above at 12 days old. The other image (below) shows the female sheltering the chicks from the rain.


The female is just starting to hunt with the male, now that the chicks are older. Prior to this the male was hunting, bringing food to feed the female and the chicks.


The male is seen with his prey, preening himself after a bout of hunting (above).

Check out Dave’s webpage HERE.

Oriental Pied Hornbill breaking out of her nest

posted in: Hornbills, Nesting | 0

Most birders know that the female hornbill seals herself inside a tree cavity when she is ready to lay her eggs. But how many have actually witnessed the hornbill breaking out of its cavity when the chicks inside are ready to leave the nest?

Let alone document the stages?

It has to be left to a photographer to undertake the assignment. Dr Eric Tan, an avid nature (bird) photographer, was at Pulau Ubin at the right time when the female Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) was breaking out of her nest. He meticulously documented the various stages and is here sharing them with everyone.


When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she enters the nest cavity, usually in a tree trunk. The male then brings her mud that she mixes with her faeces and mashed fruits to seal the entrance until only a narrow opening is left (above).

The female then begins to pull out her wing and tail feathers and then lays her eggs. The male will, in the meantime, delivers food for her and her chicks (above).


Once the chicks are ready to fledge, she will start breaking out of the cavity. This seal is then brick-hard and generally impenetrable from the outside. She needs to use her bill like a pickaxe to slowly break down the seal. As the seal slowly breaks down and the entrance enlarges, she needs to squeeze herself out. First her large bill and casque appear, then her head pops out (above, top row). Next, one of her shoulders pushes out, followed by the wing. Once one of her wings is free, she emerges partially before becoming totally free to immediately fly off (above, bottom row).

The chicks will then be enticed to leave the nest by the adults not bringing them food. As the chicks are not of uniform age when the female breaks out, the questions that need to be answered are: 1. Does the female re-seals the nest? 2. Do the chicks take over the job? 3. Is the entrance left unsealed? 4. Who returns to feed the remaining chick/s, the male or the female? There is obviously a need for further observations.

The sealing of the female inside the cavity provides security from predators, prevents the nesting cavity from being flooded and keeps off competitors – other hornbills that may otherwise try to evict the occupants for their own use. However, Kinnarid & O’Brien (2007), “…believe that nest-sealing evolved as a female strategy to ensure male fidelity.” With the male kept busy foraging for himself as well as for his mate and later the chicks, he would have no time to indulge in extra-pair copulations or maintain another female sealed in another cavity.

Kinnarid, M. F. & O’Brien, T. G. (2007). The ecology and conservation of Asian hornbills: Farmers of the forest. University of Chicago Press.

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

Injured Great Blue Heron

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern, Rescue | 1


Our post on the injured Purple Heron at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve attracted the attention of Summer Fey Foovay of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.

She encountered and documented an injured adult Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) way back in October 2005 on one of the two Tern Islands. She found out from the vet that as the injury was old, the wing could not be saved. And a single winged heron could not possibly survive in the wild. This meant that it could not be returned to the wild after rescue and, according to procedure, would be euthanised.

Rather than traumatise the bird by sending it to the vet to have it eventually euthanised, Summer left the bird alone on the island. There, she would be safe from predators and it could live whatever was left of its natural life in relative peace. Below is Summer’s story:


“She was so grievously injured and yet she went on doing what herons do – even raising and fledging three young herons that season.

“She was safe there from most of our local predators (feral cats, foxes, the occasional bald eagle and hawks) with both cover and fast running water between herself and the river bank.

“…The first time I saw her the wing was already almost nothing but bones as you can see in the photos, so it wasn’t a recent injury even then. The wildlife officer I contacted said she had probably collided with a power line – a common occurrence in that area.

In December, “the one winged Great Blue Heron has survived a 3 degree night and is out fishing in the river. She has a companion as well, either her mate or one of the three young herons. I’m leaning towards thinking it is her mate as when the three young ones go anywhere, they hang more or less together. You know, togetherness Blue Heron style which means 10 feet apart at least.

“…My final sighting of her seems to have been in January 2006. January and February are the hardest months of winter in Tulsa – she almost made it.”

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…

  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!


  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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