Barbet, woodpecker, myna and an empty nesting cavity

In the town of Raub, in Pahang, Malaysia, Muhammad Firdaus Redzlan was observing a Gold-wiskered Barbet (Megalaima chrysopogon) cleaning up a nesting cavity in a trunk of a tree. Young Muhammad informed his father who kept watch the next morning.

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The barbet returned to check on the cavity. But before Dr Redzlan Abdul Rahman could record the visit, the bird flew off. He waited for an hour that morning but the barbet did not return. Instead, a pair of Common Flamebacks (Dinopium javanense) arrived and duly inspected the cavity (above: male left, female right).

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In the evening Dr Redzlan again kept watch. No barbet. But this time a pair of Javan Mynas (Acridotheres javanicus) came, poked their heads into the hole to inspect it (above). They were probably looking for food. Or were they prospecting for a nesting cavity?

Then late that evening he saw a Gold-wiskered Barbet (probably male) perched high up on the tree with food in his mouth. The bird did not inspect the hole but instead flew off with the food in his bill.

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This barbet arrived from the west the next day to perch on the branch of the same tree (left). It rested for a while before proceeding east, always with some yellowish food in his bill. Parent birds normally do not fly directly to its nest to feed the chicks. They always land some distance away, to check whether it is safe to proceed, before flying to the nest. This may be what the barbet was doing.

The cavity appeared to have been abandoned as there was no sign of the barbet visiting it during the following two weeks. But the mynas and woodpeckers kept on checking the cavity.

Many birds are hole nesters but not all such birds are capable of excavating their very own nesting cavities. Only birds like barbets and woodpeckers excavate cavities in old and rotting tree trunks and branches. Others have to make do with natural cavities that develop as the wood rots. Or else depend on second-hand cavities, cavities once used by other birds but now abandoned.

Old and dying trees are never permanent. As they rot, the limbs collapse and eventually even the trunk gives way. Such trees pose a danger to life and limbs, especially around human habitation, so they are routinely removed.

Nesting cavities are thus always in short supply. Competition will always be fierce and some birds even go to the extent of physically removing the residing birds. See HERE for an account of the confrontation between the Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) and the Dollarbirds (Eurystomus orientalis).

One way to reduce this housing shortage is to provide nest boxes. However, we are way behind the west in the use of and research on nesting boxes. But we have made a start with the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris).

Should we remove chicks that fell out of their nests?

posted in: Rescue | 3

What would you do if you come across a helpless chick on the ground, crying softly to its parents? Would you simply walk away? Would you pick it up and look after it, or seek out someone to do so?

Many people believe that the chick will die as it has been displaced from its nest. And they will pick it up and take it away. But what exactly is the situation?

Most chicks when they first leave their nest, or what birders call fledge, are just learning to fly. The may end up on the ground but the adults will always be around to feed and encourage them on. You may not see the aduls but they are there somewhere. But once you pick it up and take it away, the parents will not be able to look after it.

Chicks may also accidentally fall out of the nest. These will be younger chicks that are a long way to fledgling. Sometimes they may be pushed out by their siblings. Invariably, these younger chicks will not survive if left on the ground. This will be a slightly different situation from the fledging chicks discussed above.

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So what should you do? If the chick is fully feathered and can run away and flap its wings, the best thing to do is leave it alone. If necessary, pick it up carefully and replace it back to the nest if you can locate it or if it is within your means to do so. If not, place it somewhere above ground – on a twig, on the roof of a nearby shed, in an open box above ground or anywhere that it cannot be easily trampled or snatched by a passing cat. The parents will easily locate it and take over.

Taking the chick home to look after it may not be the best thing to do. For one, it is a full time job. It needs to be fed a few times an hour throughout the day. Only at night will you get any peace. And even if you succeed in raising the chick to eventually release it, are you sure that it can adapt to a free adult life?

Calvin Simonds, in his 2000 book, Private Lives of Garden Birds (Storey Books), in his aside entitled “A bird in the bush is worth two in the hands” has this to say:

“The fledgling period is an important period of training for the young birds, one in which they learn from their parents what they should eat and what dangers they should look out for. Male fledglings even learn something about how to sing. Even with all their natural training, young birds have a terrible time making it through their first year. Do you really, honesty, think your ignorant, hand-raised baby could survive?”

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I have been foster parent to three chicks now, a Little Heron (Butorides striatus) (top) and recently, two Javan Mynas. These were given to me well after they were picked up. The heron was eventually released; one of the mynas was subsequently predated by a cat (above left) while the other successfully fledged (above right). What happens after release is anybody’s guess.

The pair of Malayan Whistling Thrush chicks that was nesting in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia fledged naturally. Their first flight out of the nest landed them on the ground of the warehouse where the nest was built. They were hopping about and the adults were around them all the time. To ensure that the fledged birds were safe from wandering dogs, they were put in a box and left outside the warehouse. Within two days they were flying around and the adults were busily feeding them. Now what woul happen if a concerned person took them away to look after them?

Now, would you still pick up a seemingly helpless chick should you come across it?

YC Wee
Singapore
April 2008

Alan and Meg Kemp

posted in: Travel-Personality | 2

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Alan and Meg Kemp were in town recently, on their way to Mulu National Park, Sarawak (left).

Alan’s interests include hornbills, raptors, owls and behavioural ecology of birds. He PhD research was on hornbills, undertaken when he was a research assistant in Kruger National Park. He was the ornithologist at the Department of Birds, Transvaal Museum, Pretoria from 1969-1999 and Manager of the Museum until his early retirement in 2001.

I first met Alan in September 1998 when I joined his South African Kalahari Desert tour. It was a camping trip of sort except that we slept in lodges along the way, not in tents, and cooked our own meals. That was the first time Eileen and myself were exposed to an African safari. Most times we saw sand dunes and more sand dunes, with isolated trees here and there. Once in a while we would be fortunate to view large mammals.

When asked what happened to all the animals, we were told they had gone to neighbouring Botswana. It was then that we decided to visit Botswana. But we never got to do that. We went to Kenya and Tanzania instead.

The 1998 trip was the first time I was exposed to birdwatching. I still can remember vividly, focusing my pair of opera glasses at something in the distance to be told that it was a Cory Bustard – whatever that was, until I realized that it was the name of the bird.

And my collection of South African birds images were simply the desert landscapes with tiny blobs here and there that were supposed to be birds.

Getting seriously involved in birds during the last few years means that I was in contact with Allan, but only through his many publications on hornbills.

And after nearly ten years, I have managed to meet up with Allan and Meg once again.

Images from top down: Allan and Meg Kemp, stopover in the Kalahari Gamsbok National Park, herd of springbok, Kori Bustard, and oryxes.

YC Wee
Singapore
April 2008

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo mobbing Changeable Hawk Eagle

posted in: Interspecific, Raptors | 6

KC Tsang was at Bukit Brown cemetery on the morning of 3rd April 2008 observing swifts and swallows. His mission was to photograph these birds and try develop a field photographic identification guide (see 1, 2 and 3).

While at Bukit Brown, he noticed an approaching raptor. As the bird flew nearer, he recognised it as a Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus).

His full attention was drawn towards it by the cacophony of loud bird cries. The eagle was being pursued by a pair of Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradisus) and all three birds were calling excitedly.

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KC managed to capture the magic moment when the eagle was making a powerful downward flap of its huge pair of wings to gain altitude. The lead drongo was way behind and below it, its pair of racket-tails trailing like a pair of black blobs (above).

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As the lead drongo approached nearer (above), the eagle suddenly maneuvered around. Instead of being the pursuer, the lead drongo became the pursued. The eagle came very near to the drongo and could very well have grabbed it (below). Maybe it was not hungry then. It merely flew away after scattering the panicking pair of drongos, satisfied with just getting rid of the irritating mobbers.

It should be noted that the Changeable Hawk Eagle is an expert aerial acrobat, capable of zooming up vertically and nose diving, or stooping at lightning speed, even doing a complete looping-the-loop turn in the air.

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The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo has a reputation of being aggressive and fearless. It will attack much larger birds, including raptors, especially when they are brooding chicks. These birds have been known to also attack people walking near or below an active nest. Goh Si Guim was once attacked in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and live to tell his tale.

Drongos also indulge in kleptoparasitism, snatching food from smaller birds as well as mammal species. They have been known to follow groups of foraging babblers. When any of these babblers capture a large prey, the drongo may give an alarm call frightening the foraging individual. When the latter drops the food item, the drongo swoops down and claims it. In this incident of the eagle and the drongos, it was not about kleptoparasitism, as the former was not clutching any prey. Besides, the eagle is a much bigger bird than the drongo.

Raising Kings II

posted in: Feeding chicks, Kingfishers | 1

This is a continuation from the previous post… Raising Kings I.

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The chicks continued to be fed dependant on their parents in the first two weeks. When Zena gave the rattling ‘come and get it call’ with rations sandwiched in her beak, hungry chicks usually responded quite immediately. She made them fly and scurry along the tight wire to reach for their food. Feeding stopped when Zena received no more response. She swallowed the left over.

Zena, having gone slimmer would then partake of a late, deserving breakfast alone. See how soiled her beak showed after a tiresome morning of chick feeding? No different from human parents who had to attend to their school children’s needs (left top).

It was also observed that parents practiced selective feeding to ensure survival of their brood. At times, Zena would turn away an approaching, begging chick only to call to another or fly off to feed another (left bottom).

Consistent observations provided opportunities to differentiate behavioural patterns of each chick. I soon learnt to tell them apart from one another.

On the 7th day, while half the world slept or rested, Modesto was seen exercising and testing out her beak and figuring out how to use it like Mom and Dad (below: left, middle).

She put her skills to test, staring into the water for any edible movements that may have caught her eye but saw nothing except murky water. “How on earth did Mom see those juicy river snails?” she wondered (below right).

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Modesto is recognised as the slimmer chick female with an attitude. She was observed to be facing away from the river frequently and preferring to stare into a grass sprouted river edge. On the 11th day, she made her first brave attempt to dive from the tight line for an insect- perhaps a grasshopper. She came up with a beakful of mud instead feeling fuzzed.

Allegro was making speedy progress on day eleven. He finally succeeded in fishing for a river snail but had yet to acquire the skill of keeping it in his beak. He cringed when he saw his precious catch dropped into the river (below: left, middle). Whenever food became available from parents, his response was indeed swift.

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Piccolo, the last chick fledged was lagging behind in maturity and at times was observed to be still hiding under her roost. Zena had to fly in to feed him. Being the youngest, the apple of his father’s eye, protector Hector made a point to be all seeing and all hearing. He was quick to replenish an overdue feed to his favourite. The image above (right) shows Hector overlooking Piccolo.

A surprise observation was made when a fourth fledgling was sighted very briefly on only two occasions. The prodigal fledgling stayed only for a very short moment for roll call. I called him Prodigo. The fledgling was swift and flighty with highly sensitive, predatory instincts and he/she truely was born to be free and wild. I had neither photo opportunity nor a chance of a better glimpse of this fourth.

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From day 12, the chicks were beginning to look smart with more changes seen to their feet, downy feathers turning darker and colour of pink breaking through grey beaks. White eye rings were fading away (above).

Images of Allegro and Piccolo on the 17th and 18th day showed the body language of the chicks. One was looking confident, the other- still unsure and timid of himself (below).

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It became clear that it was increasing difficult to photograph family feeding times together as the chicks became more independent and scattered. Window period of stealing a glimpse of them during roll calls became shorter by the day. To be able to chance seeing them, I had to be at the feeding site by 7.30 am each day.

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The last opportunity to observe and to photograph the avian family came on the 17th day. It was also observed the fledglings had learnt the skills of survival and self sustenance and soon to be known as juveniles. It was also the last time I was able to see the trio-Allegro, Piccolo and Modesto perched together (above).

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A quiet moment saw Hector with two river snails- a goodbye, love package. He flew in and perched beside Piccolo. It was the 21st morning (right).

“Here Pico, this is the last time I can be feeding you. Here is one and the other is for the road”.

Piccolo never flew far and was seen in the following days alone on the feeding wire. He waited and waited but food never came. Zena would still be around somewhere and occasionally flew in to offer a treat now and then. It was hard to let go, hard to see her chick go hungry alone. Piccolo was simply… not quite ready. Hector watched with self restraint (below top).

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One day, Piccolo was seen attempting to chase a small moth. He was weaving for his breakfast in the air. The moth was desperate to get away. So was hungry Piccolo for the moth. They both disappeared behind a bush in a rising cloud of moth dust.

D-day came on 31st day. Mom kept a little distant. It was time to see her last chick fly to independence. To fly he must for he was born to be free… (left bottom).

Hector, the White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) moved on and was seen no more. Both parents have done exceedingly well in successfully bringing up a fine brood to propagate their species.

Observation came to an official close on 1st March, 2008. It has taken two months of observations and time consuming effort in documenting Hector and Zena breeding and nurturing their young.

Committing my time to follow through to the finale with Hector and Zena, have been fulfilling moments. To be able to write about it, only serves to substantiate credibility to these photographic bird images, making them ever so worthwhile to dwell in the art of digiscoping birds in the wilderness.

Hector and Zena have both given me this privilege to be a window opener into their lives, to reach readers, share, understand and enjoy them in the wild from an armchair. I am grateful. All they ask in return is, “Please save my habitat and admire us from afar”.

I am glad I do not have a problem doing just that. The latter at least that is within my control……

(Most images had to be taken more than 50 feet away from a river bank by digiscopy method. While they are not really of photographic quality, they are just about satisfactory to substantiate this article. I hope readers have enjoyed them).

AVIAN WRITER DAISY O’NEILL PENANG MALAYSIA
© RAISING KINGS

Raising Kings I

Raising Kings is a sequential to Breeding Kings.

Join me in this 2nd part to witness Hector and Zena – the parental pair of White-throated Kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis), nurture their brood and let go. Maybe human beings may find a jewel or two in this documentation to admire our feathered descendants of mythological King Ceyx, enjoy the headaches and heartaches of bringing up children and learning the art of detachment.

Allegro – the oldest fledgling, endowed with downy feathered head, remained naively unperturbed by a harsh world around him (below left). Together with the rest of his siblings, he remained cutely and stoically perched on a horizontal branch across the small river on fledgling day. Occasionally, some were seen looking up at flying objects. It soon dawned on them, they too were expected to do the same.

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Survivor skills were conducted by Hector on the 3rd morning (above right). Dad with shiny reddish-orange beak to match his feet gave a demonstration of one smart plunging glide along the water’s surface. He skimmed out a little fish, perched and swallowed the staple food whole.

Hector gave a serious, fatherly stare at Allegro as if to say, “Look son, this is how our ancestors first lived by our name-King of fishers and you gonna learn fast to live up by that name too.”

The fledglings gawked in disbelief. Nervous Piccolo nearly fell from his perch as he observed in dismay.

“Oh my goodness! Is this what I have to do? Oh no…!” exclaimed Piccolo.

Mother Nature had no mercy. In toughing up the fledglings, she sent two continuous nights of heavy rainfall. I was concerned and wondered how they fared under such circumstances.

I consoled myself and recalled an observation that, immediately after fledgling, they instinctively undertook to a preening ritual to waterproof themselves by stimulating their uropygial gland to secrete an oily fluid.

By late afternoon, the fledglings were found roosting on low perch under a fallen Poinciana tree canopy about 30 feet away. It became a favourite roosting spot for the fledgling trio-Allegro, Modesto and Piccolo (below left).

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Predators oblivion to the chicks, were plentiful and a favourite breeding spot for lurking monitor lizards (above middle). Even a stray cat looked alert and well fed (above right).

The chicks have weathered the storm. The 4th day saw progressive growth and transformation of the fledglings. Yellow feet were beginning to show splashes of grey above and bright, yellow tipped bills receding into grey tones (below).

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Growth provided more strength to their wings, flight of fledglings became more confident. Coaxed by parents, they began a flight of sixty feet further up stream, onto a feeding stage.

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On this wired line, the feeding stage provided many interesting moments of observations. Parents roll called each dawn break with a descending, pre-breakfast wailing and rolling of ‘keeee… keee…’ sending chicks in for a head count.

I soon began to recognise the differences between mating calls, alarm calls and feeding calls.

Hector & Zena with a fledgling posed to show their differences for comparison (left top). Zena, the female parent appeared to be of slimmer built while Hector certainly looked macho and more rounded on the head.

The role of chick feeding was purely carried out by Zena. Hector supervised and kept a little distance away but never failed to fill in where needed. River snails were favourites. Zena would carry out a series of dives and whacked off shells against a branch during initial stages of feeding. She ensured each of her brood received sufficient rations (left below).

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It was observed as from the 6th day, chicks were able to swallow river snails whole. Lizards, dragon flies were also added for diet variety to their daily 8am breakfast (above).

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Breakfast was a busy time and the following opportunity images provided much food for though t- “A family that eats together, stays together (above, below)”

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On this feeding line, the chicks were taught discipline, teamwork, sharpening predatory instincts, sharing, independence and most of all, survival skills. They had to learn to catch on the fly and fish for their meals. It was indeed crash course to be taken seriously or starve.

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One of the images showed a pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows Passer Montanus perched on the same line (left). The kingfishers learnt to share space and live in peaceful co-existence. To be continued…

(Most images had to be taken more than 50 feet away from a river bank by digiscopy method. While they are not really of photographic quality, they are just about satisfactory to substantiate this article. I hope readers have enjoyed them).

AVIAN WRITER DAISY O’NEILL PENANG MALAYSIA
© RAISING KINGS

Malayan Whistling Thrush: 5. The chicks have fledged

posted in: Feeding chicks, Nesting | 3

The two chicks of the Malayan Whistling Thrush (Myophonus robinsoni) finally fledged on the early morning of 1st April 2008.

At 0701 hours, an adult thrush approached the nest, landing on the wooden beam. The two chick were highly excited, chirping and flapping their wings, their bills agape. As the adult walked nearer to the nest, the chicks responded by moving towards it, in a “flying” sort of way (below, left to right).

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The adult seemed to offer the food to one of the chicks but apparently not delivering. Did the adult swallow the food? And at that split moment the adult flew off downwards to be followed immediately by the two chicks (above, left to right). It was too fast for the video to catch the flight.

After so many days of trying every now and then to entice the chicks to leave the nest, the actual moment of fledging seemed an anticlimax.

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The nest remained empty for a few minutes before an adult appeared with food. This adult could possibly be the mate of the earlier bird, as it was obviously unaware of what had happened. It perched on the beam, looked around, then entered the nest before flying off with the food (above).

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There was a subsequent appearance of an adult at the nest, this time without any food in its bill. It perched on the beam supporting the nest, entered the nest to examine it and returned to the beam. In all, it remained for more than 20 minutes, preening and stretching its wings before flying off (above).

The nest was empty throughout the day and has remained empty since.

PS: Allan Teo’s people at Cameron Highlands informed that when the two chicks left the nest in the morning, they landed on the ground below, hopping about. Apparently they had still to master flight. The two adults were around to keep an eye on them and, no doubt, encourage them to fly. Should the nest be in the forest, their first flight would have landed them on some branch or other lower down. Unfortunately in the warehouse, there are no structures where they could land and so ended on the ground. To keep the fledglings safe from the many wandering dogs, they were put in a box and left outside the warehouse. The adults kept on feeding them until they flew off soon after.

On 4th April, three days after fledging, the two juveniles were flying around, still dependent on the adults for food.

You can view the video of the fledgling moment downloaded by Allan HERE.

For earlier entries, please see “Related Posts” below.

The series has now been published as: Teo, Allan & Y. C. Wee, 2009. Observations at a nest of Malayan Whistling Thrush Myophonus robinsoni in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. BirdingASIA 11: 95-97.

Allan Teo & YC Wee
Singapore
April 2008

YC would like to thank Allan for giving him access to the video recordings of the nesting; Allan gratefully acknowledges the family of Shum Yip Leong for permission to install the video camera within their premise and for generously contributing to substantial bandwidth support.

The Javan Pond Heron in Singapore

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“The reported ‘discovery’ of two Javan Pond Herons (Ardeola speciosa) at Serangoon (Lorong Halus) on March 1st 2008 (above), reported in the Nature Society (Singapore) bird group’s website (left), brought back old memories. I decided to do a little research and found that there is a need for a proper account. What has been reported so far about this species in Singapore is unsatisfactory.

“There was apparently an old ‘Singapore’ specimen at Berlin Museum formerly but this was dismissed by Gibson-Hill (1949) due to there being doubt over the actual origin of this.

“The first recent record is actually a sighting of a breeding plumaged adult at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve reported by Uthai Treesucon. This happened during the Singapore Bird Race 1994, which I was also a part of. Uthai, one of Thailand’s most prominent birders, came down with two other Thai birdwatchers to take part in the race. Their team was called Hawkeyes. At the end of the race, Uthai submitted his log-sheet to the arbitrator with notes and a sketch of the Javan Pond Heron at the back (below). I clearly remember the discussion after the race amongst the bird group elite (including members of the Records Committee). They felt that while the identity of the bird was not in doubt, due to Uthai’s familiarity with the species up in Thailand, the bird must be an escapee as it was in “summer” plumage at the wrong time of the year! Huh?!

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“These notes and sketch seem to have vanished after that and instead, notes from Wu Eu Heng were produced in the Singapore Avifauna Vol 8, No 4 (Oct–Dec 1994) issue (left). The sighting on 22nd October 1994 (by Wu, Dave Thomson & Uthai Treesucon et al.) as reported as an escapee due to “it being in breeding plumage during the wrong season”. The subsequent Singapore Bird Report in the only bird group journal, Iora, simply reports this record as an “unconfirmed sighting of a summer bird at Sungei Buloh on 23rd October by Wu Eu Heng.

“Since both reports were done by the same individual, how can the record change so much… from a sighting to an unconfirmed sighting; from 22nd to 23rd. This was very shoddy reporting. The term ‘summer’ further emphasises the confusion as the Javan Pond Heron is not a Palearctic migrant from the north, where there are different seasons!

“Anyway, Richard Ollington subsequently reported the same bird in Birdline Singapore. He had the bird at Sungei Buloh from October 4–29th, 1994. Birdline Singapore is an unpublished private publication of Ollington but David Wells receives his reports. Even here, there is some confusion. Wang & Hails (2007) report in their annotated checklist, where the species is under the doubtful/unconfirmed category, that Ollington had said that he took a colour photo of this species on October 22nd, 1994. Yet, they make no mention to the record published in Singapore Avifauna or the Iora.

“The 2nd recent record is a bird photographed by Ashley Ng on March 29th, 2003, at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. The 3rd record was of two birds in breeding plumage at Sungei Buloh between April 7–11th, 2004, as reported by Lim Kim Seng.

“On April 11th, 2007, Shona Lawson and I observed two breeding plumaged Javan Pond Herons at Serangoon (Lorong Halus). These birds were in a tidal channel, along with up to ten Chinese Pond Herons. They were also seen two days later by Martin Daniel. This is the 4th recent record of the species here.

“That brings us to this year’s ‘discovery’ of two birds (the same birds?) in early March, at the same location as last year’s sighting. At least one bird was still around on March 29th (Mary Jane Hele and I).

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“Six days later, on April 4th, these birds were still at Serangoon. There were two breeding plumaged Javan Pond Herons, along with breeding and non-breeding plumaged Chinese. The image above shows two Javan in breeding plumage together with a Chinese, also in breeding plumage.

“According to Hancock & Kushlan (1984), there are two separated races of the Javan Pond Heron. Ardeola speciosa speciosa which is found from Sumatra to Sumba and Flores and A. s. continentalis on the mainland, in Thailand, Indo-China and Myanmar. The book considers the species to be sedentary but Wells (1999) reports that since 1979, this species has been occurring during an 8-week window, from March 8th, along the west coast. As such, it is considered a non-breeding visitor to the region covered by Wells. He also mentions, that based on the discovery of many breeders in south Sumatra, that the western range may be expanding.

“As such, it may be logical to say that birds that have been turning up on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula over the past 30 years and in Singapore in the past 14 years, are genuine non-breeding visitors from the west and south of us. As such, this species is on my personal Singapore checklist as a Scarce Visitor.

“There are a couple of issues about the above records and how they have been perceived by others here.

“Firstly, in Wang and Hails (2007), there is a suggestion that Javan Pond Herons may be escapees from the zoo as Wang Luan Keng had seen some free-flying specimens there. I do hope that her identification is correct as I have only seen Chinese Pond Heron around the zoo. If she got it right, why are these free-flying zoo birds and not naturally wild occurrences? The zoo grounds do attract many wild migrants including a variety of other members of the heron family. Finally, all the records have been at the north-west and north-east migrant draws of Sungei Buloh and Serangoon, during specific months. If the Javan Pond Heron is a free-flyer from the zoo, why are there no records between May–September? Other free-flyers from the zoo, such as the Milky and Painted Storks, occur at Buloh during all months of the year!

“Secondly, if Uthai’s record of a bird in breeding plumage in October 1994 was deemed almost certainly an escapee due to its ‘summer’ plumage in the wrong month, it seems strange that there were no doubts at all about breeding plumaged birds seen by bird group members in 2004 and 2008.

“We should remember that the Bird Group’s Records Committee is just that and nothing more. It is not a National Records Committee and whilst it might like all birders here to submit records to it, not all recognise its competence or impartiality.”

Input and images by Subaraj Rajathurai except the one at the top, by Lee Tiah Khee.

References:
1. Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1949). An annotated checklist of the birds on Malaya. Bull. Raffles Mus. 20:1-299.
2. Hancock, J. & Kushlan, J. (1984). The Herons Handbook. Croom Helm, London.
3. Wang, L.K. & Hails, C. J. (2007). An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. Suppl. 15:1-179.
4. Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.

Another Javan Myna chick picked up: 2. Release

posted in: Feeding chicks, Rescue | 0

The Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) chick picked up by Gloria Seow and raised by me since 18th March 2008 was keenly aware of its surroundings. Whenever it heard bird calling from the garden, it fluttered excitedly around its cage trying to get out.

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Obviously it was about to fledge. Its wing feathers were fully developed; it regularly exercised its wings, flapping and stretching them; and it had begun to actively preen its feathers.

In an effort to encourage it to feed itself, I stopped hand-feeding it and left some food inside the cage. Out of hunger it finally pecked at the food after about an hour or so.

Encouraged by its ability to feed itself, I took it out of its cage on 21st March and placed it on a low branch of a tree (left). It remained there for the next two hours until I tried to return it to its cage. Moving from branch to branch, it finally jumped down and ran from one end of the garden to the other.

Finally cornered, it took shelter inside a small patch of low growth selaginella. Crouching low and remaining dead-still within the patch, even when I was physically parting the plants, I nearly overlooked it. But it was there all right, a still black blob not moving an inch.

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Its loud screeching when handled attracted the attention of a pair of adult Javan Mynas that flew in to investigate.

The bird remained inside the cage for another day after which I again tried to set it free. Leaving the cage about a metre and a half from the ground with the door opened (left top), the bird took about half an hour before it finally realised that freedom was a few centimeters away.

Jumping onto the open door (left middle), it immediately flew off towards the nearby branched (left bottom). I was sure that it landed on the branches but apparently I was wrong. It was nowhere on the small tree. It must have landed on the ground and ran off.

I failed to locate it after a thorough search of the garden. Knowing its ability to remain still and blend in with its surroundings, I realised the futility of locating the fledgling.

My only hope is that it does not end up inside the neighbour’s cat.

When Gloria heard what happened to the chick, she wrote: “… its OK if you can’t find it. We will have to assume that it flew away and is a happy and free bird now. I’m just glad that it has begun to peck (eat) on its own without you having to stuff food into its mouth… so I’ll presume that it can start hunting for its own food.

“Anyway, flight is instinctive, so I believe that if it is a healthy bird, it should be able to outfly any cat. Hopefully though, the bird will return to your garden somehow… or hang around your estate… so that you can monitor if it has any attachment to your home at all, and any strange behaviour in relation to this man-bird relationship ecology.”

Well, the bird has yet to return. And it has been more than two weeks now. At the advanced age it was picked up, it would not be tame enough to return after release. Hopefully, it is now moving around with other Javan Mynas.

Malayan Whistling Thrush: 4. Preparing to fledge

posted in: Nesting | 1

The chicks of the Malayan Whistling Thrush (Myophonus robinsoni) had grown quite a lot by 27th March 2008. Their wings feathers and muscles appeared fully developed and they had been flapping and stretching their wings all the time.

Allan Teo was first to notice that the adults were preparing the chicks for fledging. The adults were arriving less frequently with food. At times one chick was fed while the other had to wait 10 minutes or longer for its turn. Other times they were simply teasing the chicks, not feeding them, just approaching and then flying off.

In one incident, an adult appeared with its bill stuffed with what looked like worms. It offered them to a chick, to immediately withdraw. (It was not clear whether it ate the food or fed the chick with it.) The adult then moved into the nest and huddled with the two chicks.

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It was then that the other adult arrived, perching some distance away on the beam (above left). The chicks immediately started begging and it fed the chicks with the first adult still in the nest (above right). Second adult stayed for a few seconds before leaving. It appeared again a few seconds later to again feed the chicks. The first adult remained in the nest all this time. This shows that both parents take part in feeding the chicks.

The chicks responded to the decreased feeding and noisy encouragements by the adults to fledge by standing along the nest edge and looking downwards, where on of the adults was probably there calling. In the image below (left), note the presence of an adult on the wall in the background towards the top left.

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To encourage the chicks further, an adult regularly joined them in the nest, either after feeding or arriving without feeding. It then huddled over one or the other, with the chick looking downwards – as if to encourage it to fledge.

The coaxing went on for the next few days at a heightened intensity. After a few sessions of enticing the chicks with food and not actually feeding, an adult would arrive to actually feed (top right). By late evening an adult would invariable arrive at the nest to prepare to settle down for the night.

As the days went by, the chicks grew bigger and their wings more powerful. But still they remained in the nest. They perched along the nest edge, they even moved backwards to nearly tumble from the side, they got one of their legs outside the nest… still they remained in the nest (below).

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The chicks became more active, moving around the nest, preening, flapping or stretching their wings and calling to be fed. They looked down, side or up, following the movement of one or the other of the adults. Again, an adult may enter the nest and huddle with the chicks, even straddling one as if to encourage it to fly off.

By 31st March, it had been five days of continuous encouragement with no results. The chicks had by then grown a lot and were bigger. Both filled the nest and there was not enough room for the adult. At night, while the chicks slept in the nest, the adult had to sleep most of the time on the perch by the nest (below).

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It was observed that at times the adult would sleep on the perch, standing on one leg. This was probably to conserve heat, the temperature inside the warehouse was around 16-17 Degrees Celsius.

For earlier entries on the Malayan Whistling Thrush, please see “Related Posts” below.

Allan Teo & YC Wee
Singapore
April 2008

YC would like to thank Allan for giving him access to the video recordings of the nesting; Allan gratefully acknowledges the family of Shum Yip Leong for permission to install the video camera within their premise and for generously contributing to substantial bandwidth support.

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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