White-crested Laughingthrush and bananas

posted in: Feeding-plants | 0

“We first noticed, or actually heard, these White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) about two years ago. Usually we only see these birds after a heavy downpour. They will come to our frangipani trees (Plumeria spp.) and take turns to forage on the ground. Usually about four to six each time, but once we saw a flock of about nine.

“About a year ago when our variegated banana was fruiting, we noticed them coming for the ripe fruits. However, the funny thing was that they did not eat the bananas while they were still on the bunch. One or two birds would work at getting a ripe fruit to fall to the ground and only then did they take turns to feed.

“These last months they had been coming almost every morning and sometimes, throughout the day. They were more active after a heavy rain and would feed on the ground. Can it be that the rain water forces more worms and bugs out of the ground?

“Another bird we saw (or heard) during the last few months was the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). When there’s lots of rain, the field next to our house turns into a little pond. The night herons will then come in the evening and feed (or hunt) here. We also see the Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) and once in awhile, the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea).

Victor Lee”

Thanks, Victor, for the account and Johnny Wee for the image.

Egg-dumping by Asian Koels

posted in: Brood parasitism, Crows | 1

Egg-dumping is the term used by birders to refer to nest parasitism. This is where a bird lays its eggs in the nest of other birds. It can be a bird of the same species (intraspecific parasitism) or of another species (interspecific parasitism). The former is fairly widespread but seldom noticed. However, this can be detected when there are two eggs seen in a day as few birds lay more than one a day. T(e latter is seen in the Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) where the koel lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. This is because the koel never builds its own nest.

In Singapore these koels parasitise the nests of House Crows (Corvus splendens) mainly. We had a number of earlier postings by Angie Ng (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and by Hung Bun Tang (1, 2, 3). Below are some engaging discussions on the subject.

Ong Kiem Sian reported that she saw a cuckoo nesting in a fantail nest. The female cuckoo pecked the egg of the fantail and immediately deposited her egg in the nest. This was completed within a few seconds when the host was not around. She wondered if the cuckoos were desperate and cannot find a host nest, would they then become aggressive, like the koels reported in the postings? She added: “And if the female bird still cannot find and cannot tahan (ie desperate to lay her egg), maybe she will drop her egg on to the ground.”

Yap Kim Fatt countered: “I would have thought the koel chabohs (Hokkien for females) would deposit their eggs in the crow’s nest by stealth rather than by the gangster-ish method as witnessed by Angie Ng (see links above). I would expect a sort of a hit-and-run ova-parturition when the adult crows are not around the nests.”

Jeremy Lee is of the opinion that “If they are nest parasites, I believe they would have to evolve a quick hit-and-run method of depositing the egg in the nest. I have seen documentaries on TV showing cuckoos caught in the act. And it is surprisingly quick to drop the eggs in the nest.”

At the talk in the National Library by Prof NS Sodhi and Ilsa Sharp to launch their book, Winged Invaders – Pest Birds of the Asian Pacific (Singapore: SNP References, 2006) on 10th March 2006, I nearly got my answer to the above. It would appear that the male Asian Koel will seek out an active House Crow’s nest after which he will call out for his mate. Once the female koel appears, the male will approach the crow’s nest whereby the incubating crow will immediately chase it away. At that split second, the female koel will sneak into the nest and lay her egg. The female will then call to signal to her mate that the mission has been accomplished.

But I was unable to elicit a direct response from Prof Sodhi on whether the female koel will drop her egg on the ground if she is not able to immediately find a nest to lay her egg. He believes that in all probability the crow will leave its nest to chase off the male koel, giving the female an opportunity to lay her egg.

Geoffrey Davison has this to say about fertilisation and egg laying: “I had a look at what few books I have at home, but didn’t find anything specific on the time taken from fertilisation of the ovum to laying of the egg by birds. But for all birds, fertilisation has to take place at the top end of the oviduct, before the fertilised ovum is surrounded by albumen, two membranes, and the shell. Since eggs of poultry and many other birds are laid at about one-day intervals, this implies about 24 hours for the egg to proceed down the oviduct.

“Smaller birds lay eggs at shorter intervals, but seldom less than 15 hours or so, and big birds like ostriches would lay eggs at intervals of several days – again, that implies several days for each egg to travel down the oviduct being wrapped in albumen, membranes and shell after fertilisation.

“…It’s also possible that copulation is performed shortly before the laying of an egg that was fertilised by an earlier copulation.”

Input by Ong Kiem Sian, Yap Kim Fatt, Jeremy Lee, Prof NS Sodhi and YC; additional comment by Geoffrey Davison; and images of a female Asian Koel sneaking into the nest of the House Crow by YC

Homosexuality in birds

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 7

An earlier posting on a pair of hornbills of different species, both females, prospecting for a nesting site, has raised the question of homosexuality among birds. But how aware are local birders of such behaviour among our feathered friends? Not much, I am afraid. But homosexuality among birds is a common phenomenon.

Thanks to Lin Yangchen who made an online search and alerted us of the presence of such literature, I have managed to read a few of such reports.

Many species of birds lack sexual dimorphism. Thus we cannot differentiate the male from the female. During courtship and any subsequent mating, there is no way to tell whether the two birds are of the same or different sex. However, among birds showing sexual dimorphism, same sex courtship and mating can be obvious.

People have always been aware of homosexuality in captive birds, especially parrots. Such behaviour here can be due to the circumstances of confinement and may not be normal. However, there have been accounts of homosexuality among wild birds.

A pair of male Orange-fronted Parakeets (Aratinga canicularis) was observed to indulge in courtship behaviour in the wild. Ultimately one bird attempted to mount the other. Both birds were collected for scientific examination and found to be adult males.

Homosexual copulation has also been recorded in feral populations of Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) (left), Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) and Common Murre (Uria aalge). Although no cloacal contacts were mentioned in these cases, it was specifically observed in the case of Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).

Th% above are instances of homosexuality between birds of the same species. Homosexuality between birds of different species has also been reported. Among Canada Geese (Brania canadensis), unisexual pairings of both males and females are common. What is uncommon was the instance of pairing between a male Giant Canadian Goose (B. canadensis maxima) and a male Snow Goose (Chen hyperborean). As both these birdskwere tagged and their sex had been determined earlier during handling, there was no question that they were a homosexual pair. The former assumed the female role, followed the Snow Goose everywhere and roosted close to him at night. However, there was no attempt at mating or nest building.

Another case of interspecific homosexuality was between a Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) and a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) (right). The male sparrow mounted a male cowbird, grabbed its head feathers and attempted copulation. This was repeated twice before the former flew to a nearby fence. The cowbird flew to join the sparrow and nudged the latter until it mounted it a few more times. This behaviour continued for 5-8 minutes.

So, our Great Hornbill pairing with a Rhinoceros Hornbill and checking nesting cavities around Eng Neo is not all that strange after all.

Comment by R. Subaraj: Homosexuality – But then again, maybe it is still strange as most of the other cases mentioned involved males, not females.

Brackbill, H (1941). Possible homosexual mating of the Rock Dove. Auk 58:581.
Buchanan OM (1965). Homosexual behavior in wild Orange-fronted Parakeets. Condor 68:399-400.
Griffin, DN (1959) Apparent homosexual behavior between Brown-headed Cowbird and House Sparrow. Auk 76:238-239.
Lombardo, MP, Bosman, RM, Faro, CA, Houtteman, SG & Kluisza, TS (1994). Homosexual copulation by male Tree Swallows. Wilson Bull. 106:555-557.
Starkey, EE (1972). A case of interspecific homosexuality in geese. Auk 89:456-457.

Loneliness makes strange bedfellows: Great and Rhinoceros Hornbills

posted in: Courtship-Mating, Hornbills | 7

A pair of hornbills comprising a Great (Buceros bicornis) and a Rhinoceros (B. rhinoceros), both females, have been visiting an old albizia tree (Paraserianthes falcataria) around the Eng Neo area from late February to April to check on a cavity as a possible nesting site.

Every morning and sometimes in the evening, the birds would fly to the tree and inspect the cavity. The Great Hornbill plays the role of a male, trying to lure the Rhinoceros to the cavity by placing food inside. It then flies to the nearby tree to join the Rhinoceros and sometimes feed the latter as part of their courtship ritual. Once in a while the Rhinoceros would respond to the Great’s urging and fly to the cavity to inspect it.

The Great has also been observed to peck hard on the periphery of the cavity in an effort to enlarge the opening.

After some time spent outside the cavity, both birds would fly around, to alight on the yellow flame (Peltophorum pterocarpum) and other trees around the area. There, the pair would stay close together for up to half an hour or so. The Great Hornbill, a probable escapee from Jurong Bird Park, has a metal tag on her right leg. The pair are obviously used to people as they appear tame.

This pair has been seen in Hindehede Quarry prospecting for a potential nesting cavity.

YC Wee
4th May 2006

Ng Bee Choo has this to say: “A pair of Great Hornbills died in Sentosa island a number of years ago. This Great Hornbill must be very desperate. Morten Strange has seen it once in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, checking a nesting hole. Both hornbills belong to the genus Buceros. In Thailand, according to Dr Pilai Poonswad, these two hornbills mated and produced a hybrid. In the above case both birds are females. They have paired up for company… however, if they try to mate, this must be a case of lesbian birds. Must be recorded as a case study of birds in desperation.”

Top image (Great left, Rhinoceros right) and bottom of Great inspecting cavity by YC.

How birds handle the larger ceram palm fruits

posted in: Feeding strategy, Feeding-plants | 4

In an earlier posting it was mentioned that Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis) swallowed the fruits of Alexandra palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) and a little while later regurgitated the large seeds. In subsequent observations I noticed that other starlings did not always swallow the fruits followed by regurgitating the seeds. They just pecked at the thin pulp surrounding the seeds, leaving the fruits on the inflorescence branch with patches of skin removed. It may be possible that when the fruits are ripe and the pulp soft, the birds will swallow the fruits whole. Short of conducting experiments with caged birds, we may not know when the birds swallow and when they just peck at the pulp.

The fruits of my ceram palms (Rhopaloblaste ceramica) are now ripening and I had the opportunity to observe a flock of starlings feasting on the fruits. These fruits are larger than the Alexandra palm, each about 35 x 20 mm as opposed to 12 x 10 mm fruits of the latter. The pulp of both seeds is thin, less than 2 mm thick. For a bird the size of the starling, it is understandable that it merely pecks off pieces of the pulp.

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), about the size of a starling, similarly pecks on the pulp of ripe ceram fruits, without dislodging them from their inflorescence branch. Another bird that had been observed eating these fruits was the blue-crowned hanging parrot (Loriculus galgulus). As with the other birds mentioned earlier, it merely bit off pieces of the pulp.

Along my driveway below these ceram palms, I find seeds of the Alexandra and MacArthur palms (Ptychosperma macarthurii) totally devoid of the pulp. Obviously they have been regurgitated by birds that also feed on the ceram fruits. I know that the starling regurgitate the former seeds but I have no proof that any bird regurgitates seeds of the latter. Can it also be the starling? It would be interesting to find out!

Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) is reputed to be able to swallow seeds larger that 18 mm diameter but I have yet to observe this bird eating these fruits that is 2 mm larger in diameter, besides being 35 mm long. No doubt it would be an interesting observation.

It should be noted that these birds do not assist in the dispersal of the seeds of this palm as they merely fall on the ground below the palm. As the palm is native to the Moluccas where it grows in the rainforest, its dispersal agent is probably not present in Singapore.

Note: scale in mm. Text and images by YC.

Attack on the Black-shouldered Kite’s nest

posted in: Crows, Interspecific | 5

Meng and Melinda Chan, together with two other photographers, were out around the Lim Chu Kang cemetery area on the morning of 6th March 2005 to document the arrival of the male Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) bringing food to the female who was usually sitting in the nest incubating her eggs. The large nest of twigs sat firmly lodged between the end branches of a tall tree, totally exposed all around.

What they witnessed was a sad spectacle. The presumably female bird was perched on a branch near her nest, calling loudly.

This was unusual, as she was always in the nest, guarding her eggs from the constant threat posed by the many House Crows (Corvus splendens) that were around.

The bird then flew to a further branch to join its newly arrived mate. They remained there, not returning to the nest. This was again strange, as they seldom, if ever, left the nest and its contents unguarded. Were the birds stressed in any way? They must have been!

As Melinda described it later, “Our hearts sank when we watched helplessly what was unfolding in front of us.” A gang of four House Crows suddenly appeared. As there were no adult kites around, the crows launched a concerted attach. In Meng’s words, “The crows came in waves, like Japanese kamikazi pilots flying their planes in a series of attacks.”

The crows swarmed over the nest, screaming loudly. They zoomed in one by one to fly off with the contents, including a fully formed embryo and egg shells.

Meng and Melinda then realised that the adult kite they saw earlier, crying out loudly, was in fact crying in sorrow, knowing that the eggs would not complete their cycle and they would not see any nestlings.

Not too long later, when Ming and Melinda returned to the scene, they found the abandoned nest collapsed. But eight months later (November 2005), they found a pair, possibly the same pair, nesting again at the same location, but on a different tree. The crows were a constant threat and the kites had to fight them off all the time. As it was the rainy season then, they did not have much chance to monitor the nesting. The very last time they saw the nest, it was abandoned and was in a bad condition, probably another failed attempt at nesting.

Our bird specialist, R. Subaraj has this to say: These are fantastic dramatic shots that show clear proof of the threat the introduced House Crows pose on native birds. A flock of crows is quite capable of driving a kite off it’s nest to raid it. From one of the image, you can see that the Black-shouldered Kite is actually quite a small raptor compared to the corvid. As our grasslands shrink and the crow population increases, it becomes more and more difficult for the Black-winged Kites to successfully raise a brood. This in turn is a serious threat to the species in the long run.

Note: A detailed account of these kites and their antics when the parent birds arrive with food is given elsewhere by Hilary Hoe.

Text and images by Meng and Melinda Chan.

White-throated Kingfisher and the lizard

On 2nd April 2006, Johnny Wee was at Venus Drive when he spotted a White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) perching on a branch of a nearby tree. Apparently it was intensely eying a lizard on the ground nearby.

Johnny continued: “Its head feathers were fluffed erect and the pupils of its eyes were dilated to the maximum such that the eyes appeared white. Then suddenly the bird launched towards its prey. I was not able to see exactly what happened as my vision was blocked by the grass around. The bird then picked the dead lizard and returned to a nearby perch.

“The lizard was most possibly dead when the bird brought it back to the nearby perch. After all, its body was clearly pierced through by the bird’s beak as a result of the initial attack. The bird then flew off with the lizard between its beak.”

This kingfisher is a typical sit-and-wait predator spending long periods perched on a branch high above ground. While surveying the surrounding for prey, its head may be bobbing or its tail wagging. Once a potential prey is spotted, the bird swoops down to the ground, landing feet first, seizes the animal and return to the same perch or a nearby perch.

Text and image by Johnny Wee.

An encounter with a Lesser Coucal along the ECP

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

“I was just looking at the information regarding the Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis) from Ria Tan’s webpage. This is one bird that I have not seen in a long time.

“When I first moved to Loyang in 1987, it’s distinctive three-note call was what haunted me. It was a sound that I used to hear as a kid in my grandma’s place that came from the sprawling field of lallang grass (Imperata cylindrica) beyond the boundary of our large colonial bungalow. It was beyond my territory.

“Looking out from my bedroom window in Loyang Valley, a similar big expanse of lallang filled the landscape that was part of the old Selarang Camp. A few dead trees in the middle of the lallang and that was all there was. You can even hear the lallang blades swishing in the wind. It was here that I caught my first sight of the coucal. The final link of the haunting call to the bird was when I saw it call from the dead tree in the middle of the patch.

“I really liked the graceful way the bird flies – effortlessly, just above the lallang and then just dropping right into the thick of it and disappearing.

“Since then, whenever I hear that haunting three-note call, I would park myself at the window, scanning the lallang for a fleeting glimpse of the coucal.

“After they cleared the lallang and rebuilt the camp, I heard the call no more.

“Years passed. In 1999 I was on a cab from Changi Airport on the East Coast Parkway heading towards town. Just as we reached the point where Tanah Merah Golf Club and Laguna Golf Club border the ECP, I saw a bird attempting to fly across the expressway heading for Tanah Merah’s side of the ECP. The distinctive gracefulness of the flight was unmistakable, as well as its tendency to stay low even in flight. That was its mistake.

“From the back seat of the cab, I was crossing my fingers. Its projected flight path took it right into the path of the taxi. I knew it was not going to make it. Anxious seconds passed. This was closest I had ever been to a coucal and yet I wished it was further away. The bird never knew what hit it. It hit the top right corner of the windscreen and as I turned back I wished it had hit harder. The poor bird was in its last throes of death right in the middle of the ECP. Its bright chestnut plumage that I so admired was a tangled mess flapping in the centre of the road. I wished its last moments had not been so drawn out.

“It was about that time that I had first thought of realising my lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. I sat in the taxi and thought that the bird’s dramatic end was a sign for me to forget about becoming a pilot, that you are definitely not going to make it. If it was some pigeon or mynah, I might not have taken it seriously. And if it was a crow I probably would have gone straightaway to buy a lottery ticket. But the coucal, a bird that I so admired and have not seen in ages, was a different story.”

Contributed by Jeremy Lee, image by Ashley Ng.

Attacks of the House Crows

posted in: Crows, Interspecific | 2

Following Si Guim’s account of his encounter with House Crows (Corvus splendens) when he simply looked at the injured bird, Timothy Pwee had a similar but more serious experience:

“Saturday (22nd April) was Earth Day and I spent the afternoon helping the Singapore Environment Council’s Waste to Wow! interschool competition. After the competition at around 6pm, I was headed down Victoria Street to the newly reopened National Museum of Singapore for a movie (Film Festival). That was when I got hit from the back! Now, I’ve been dive bombed by crows before, but this is the first time I’m been hit full force by one. Retreating to a safe distance, I tried to spot the nest (which I presumed the silly crows were defending) in the trees. It took me a while before I spotted a third crow in the bushes near the ground.

“Watching the crows, I realised they were attacking every other pedestrian. Especially loved the sight of a large tough-looking young man who got hit. He stood there for several minutes glaring at the crows. Several tourists exiting a nearby hotel got attacked too.

“I tried several times to grab the grounded crow which I suspect is a fledgling. However, I was driven back each time by the two guardian crows who would repeatedly attack my head and shoulders. Think I was hit about a dozen times. At least one of the strikes on my shoulders left a stinging cut though no blood was drawn. My shoulders have another three or four red lines that don’t hurt. My scalp was a different story. There I have at least two cuts though I didn’t realise it till much later when I found my hair had little scattered clots.

“Around nightfall, I made a final attempt at the bird with the help of a manager from the nearby hotel. While the manager fended off the attacks, I tried to grab the grounded crow with a tee-shirt. However, the bushes were too thick and I got tangled in the branches. The grounded crow promptly hopped out onto the road and immediately got rolled over – Ouch!

“Should I have left it alone? Well, its guardians were attacking passers-by initially – at least my attempts to catch the grounded crow made the crows concentrate their attacks on me, sparing the passing people. Also, after nightfall, I’m sure the grounded crow would have fallen prey to a sewer rat.

“Well, it’s now destined to become a specimen so its death has some meaning at least.”

Note:“I forgot to add that after the crow got run over, one of its guardians landed to check it for a moment before flying back into the trees. I then waited for the next break in the traffic to grab the corpse – and promptly got attacked again. On the other side of the road, I put the corpse into a plastic bag and walked back across the road, expecting to get attacked again. However, the other crows seemed to have lost interest once the corpse was bagged.”

Text and images (left fledgling, right adult) by Timothy Pwee. You may wish to check Tim’s link.

Comment by YC: This is an exciting account of sustained attacks by crows on passersby. I am sure Tim has the dubious honour of taking the most number of hits by these crows. Unlike Si Guim’s experience, extremely mild, to say the least, these crows assumed that anyone and everyone who were around were potential enemy. No body language involved here. Thanks Tim for an exciting account. Must have been exciting for you too.

Crows and body language

posted in: Crows, Interspecific | 3

Goh Si Guim had a most interesting encounter recently with House Crows (Corvus splendens). While he was walking along Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, he noticed an injured crow hopping on the ground with one wing limp. Being a naturalist that he is, he turned his head to take a second look. The next moment he was startled by a loud squawk and a smack on his head. A diving crow succeeded in its mission of distracting him from its injured comrade. In the interim, the injured crow rejoined the others who were all screeching around it in a protective way.

Si Guim was relieved that there was no loss of his hair nor did the strike draw blood.

The interesting thing was that there were many other people around the injured bird, all not paying attention to it except Si Guim.

From this experience, Si Guim now believes that crows are very protective of their kind. He wonders whether these crows can read body language. Did they interpret his looking at the injured bird as a sign that he was going to do it harm? After all, they left the others alone, those people who simply ignored the injured bird.

His other experience was at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where he was once pounced upon by a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradisus). But that did not end in a bull’s-eye.

Note: My experience with a House Crow’s attack was when I handled an Asian Koel’s (Eudynamys scolopacea) fledgling (left) that emerged from a pair of crows’ nest in my garden. The fledgling landed on the ground during its initial attempt at flight and I managed to catch it to take a close-up shot. It was then released but its loud screaming attracted about a dozen crows overhead, all screaming loudly, so much so that all the neighbours came out to investigate what was happening. My further attempt at photographing the fledgling while on the ground was thwarted when the crows dive-bombed me, one missing my head by centimeters. Wisely I retreated indoors and the fledgling went into hiding. The screaming crows eventually left the scene and peace prevailed. YC

Thanks, Si Guim for this most interesting account. Images by YC.

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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