Glossy Swiftlets at Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia

posted in: Swifts-Swallows | 2

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“We have known the location of the roosting site of the Glossy Swiftlets (Collocalia esculenta) on Fraser’s Hill for many years now. It is such a common bird there but without any exceptional colour pattern or design to attract our attention, we have left this species out of our radar scan.

“However, I have recently become aware that there could be more species of swiftlets in Singapore’s airspace than a lot of us realise. So I am curious about swiftlets. Then there was a chance meeting with Mr. Ken Scriven, a long time friend, on the road in Frasers’ that set me looking at the Glossy Swiftlets.

“Ken alerted me that at 7.30 pm in front of the roosting site, there would be a great gathering of Glossy Swiftlets, about 3,000 birds he said, buzzing around to get into the small man-made “cave”, a disused garage actually. To be honest, we think that there were about a couple of hundreds, but this did not make the event any less exciting.

“Anyways, while waiting for the event to start, I decided to look into this cave – man this place sure stinks to high heaven, with all that guano collecting on the floor. Then I realised that these birds had to do some incredible flight maneuvers in order to secure itself on to the ceiling of the garage.

“However, before these birds could get into this man-made cave, there was one obstacle that they had to get through, that is the grilled gate of the garage. The bars are constructed vertically, and about five inches apart. These birds would have to fly in at a very high speed without knocking themselves silly on the bars. So far from our observations, we did hear a few clunks, nothing serious that would cause the bird to floor themselves.

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“While in the so-called cave, the birds would be circling anti clockwise, round and round; they somehow knew that they had to go around in one direction; then one or two would decide that it was time to rest and would attempt to secure itself onto the ceiling. This bird would fly to a higher level where there were no flying birds, hovered in mid-air, flipped around upside down, used its beak to secure itself onto the ceiling which would have a tiny beak hold. Once the beak was secured, it would then flapped its wings in a special way to bring the rest of its tiny body up to the ceiling so that the claws of its feet would also be able to find a place to further secure itself. All these maneuvers were done in some split seconds.

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“Now if the bird is to decide that it needs to build a nest, it would then secrete a translucent kind of sticky gel on to the ceiling and attach a kind of string-like grass to the gel. As you can see, it is an extremely difficult task, the bird will have to make so many trips to collect the grass, and fly back to the same spot to continue the process of building the nest. I am just wondering what would happen if some other bird decides to hijack that same spot.

“This swiftlet can be found commonly in Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, but considered to be rare, resident breeding not proven, and a nationally threatened species in Singapore.”

KC Tsang & Amy Tsang
Singapore
March 2008

Coppersmith Barbet: Courtship and mating

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Dr Redzian Abdul Rahman from Raub, Malaysia, observed and documented the courtship and mating behaviour of the Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala) that we are presenting below. Where he lives, there is a small grove of banana and papaya plants by a river and there are “lots of birds, such as Yellow-vented Bulbul, Mynas, Glosy Starling, Black-nape Oriole, etc., a full list of which is given in his blog.
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In the top image, the male flies in to perch near the female. He comes prepared with gifts and indulges in courtship feeding, a common ritual among many species of birds (above). The male in this case has a number of fruits in his gullet but he passes on only one to the female. Sometimes he may have to offer more than one, but not in this case. And at times the female may teasingly pass back the fruit to the male.

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After courtship feeding comes copulation. With the next gift still in his bill, he carefully mounts her. With wings fluttering, he then maneuvers his tail so that his cloaca comes into contact with hers, a process that is termed the “cloacal kiss” (above). It is at this stage that sperms are transferred from the cloaca of the male to that of the female.

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Immediately after the cloacal kiss, the male dismounts, the fruit still in his bill as the female has yet to eat his gift. Once she eats the fruit, he mounts her again, never offering her another gift (above). In a flash he completes his second cloacal kiss and flies off.

Immediately after the first pair completed their mating, another pair flew in and copulated (above). In this case the male did not even offer the fruit he had at the ready in his bill.

In the above image, note the everted cloacal opening of the female bird on the right, seen immediately after copulation. The male bird on the left still has his fruit in his bill, to be offered, no doubt, to his next partner.

Courtship activities may centre round the potential nesting cavity. The birds may indulge in a lot of singing, either simultaneous singing by the courting pair or duetting between males. Flight displays are common, with the male flying to perch besides the female, often with wings fluttering.

See an earlier account where the male barbet got three “bonks” for the price of two berries HERE.

Dr Redzian Abdul Rahman
Raub, Malaysia
February 2008

Pacific Reef Egret foraging along a canal

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On the afternoon of 15th February 2008, Dr Leong Tzi Ming was taking a casual stroll along the Telok Kurau Canal near his home when he spotted a heron foraging in the shallow water of the canal.

Tzi Ming is familiar with Little Heron (Butorides striatus), Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), but not this bird. His suspected it to be a Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra).

According to our bird specialist R Subaraj, “This is indeed a dark-phase Pacific Reef Egret. I have seen him flying over East Coast Road by your canal a couple of times over the past month.”

These birds are usually seen singly or in pairs. And most pairs Subaraj saw consisted of a dark and a white morph.

The Pacific Reef Egret is an uncommon resident. Its typical habitats are rocky shores, exposed reef flats and sometimes along sandy shore and low-tide mud around mangroves. But in urbanised Singapore, our concretised canals are becoming feeding grounds for this as well as other herons like Grey, Night and Striated.

Dr Leong Tzi Ming & R Subaraj
Singapore
February 2008

Himalayan Griffon captured and displayed

On 25th February 2008, KC Tsang circulated the following account:

“It is sad to see this very regal-looking bird end up 
this way in someone’s cage in Bintan, Indonesia. Could it be
 for the better? I found this out from two very
 reliable sources. One was an Indian couple I met at a party, and 
the other, a person who was able to supply these pictures.

The Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayensis), also known as Himalayan Griffon, is now caged in a resort there.

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“I was told that it was
 caught while feeding on a pig’s carcass in a pig farm.
 I am just wondering how is it that a pig’s carcass was
 left rotting, and for the vulture to come and feed on
 it.

“As it was so hungry, it was not too concerned with 
humans coming close enough to capture it.
 The time of capture of this beautiful bird, I was told, 
was sometime last year, I would hazard a guess, some
time November, December?



“So if there is some one out there who has more information on this bird, please do let us have it.”

This vulture is resident of Central Asia and the Himalayas. So far, a number of birds have been recorded to migrate as far south as Singapore since 1989. In January 1992 a small flock of nine birds were photographed at roost by J Smith and Morten Strange at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. As recent as 23rd January this year, we have sightings of three birds, two of which were photographed by Lee Tiah Khee flying over Bukit Timah.

Previously known to be sedentary and only migrating altitudinally, these vultures are more and more seen south of its normal range. This may be suggestive of an irruption or a range expansion of the species (Wang & Hails, 2007).

KC Tsang
Singapore
February 2008

Reference:
Wang, L.K. & Hails, C. J. (2007). An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. Suppl. 15:1-179.

Black-naped Orioles raiding nest of Pied Triller

posted in: Interspecific | 0

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Prof Cheong Loong Fah chanced upon our post on Nest Raiding in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and shares his experience about Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) (left top) raiding the nest of the Pied Triller (Lalage nigra) (left bottom):

“I once had a pair of Pied Trillers nesting in front of my house. One day, a Black-naped Oriole spotted the nest and tried to raid it. The oriole was chased off by one of the Pied Trillers quite vigorously; the fight was quite fierce and with full body contact between the two birds.

“However, on the next day, the original intruder (I suppose) brought back a gang and these four orioles that then destroyed the nest. The Pied Trillers were powerless to stop this destruction.

“I didn’t manage to see if they were feeding on the eggs; it just seemed wanton destruction to me then. The Pied Triller pair came back to the nesting site the next day and lingered around, but after that never came back.”

Another account of the destructive nature of the Black-naped Oriole… see related posts below.

Prof Cheong Loong Fah
Singapore
February 2008
(Image of Pied Triiler by Susan Wong and oriole by YC Wee)

New comment on your post #2635 “Black-naped Orioles raiding nest of Pied Triller
Author : Susan Wong Chor Mun (IP: 203.109.33.42 , 203.109.33.42)
E-mail : wcmsusan@gmail.com
URL :
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=203.109.33.42
Comment:
Sad to hear of this fail nesting.
Regarding the Raiding of nesting, I do recalled that my observation on the pied triller nesting, chasing of other spp of birds that come very near to the nest are the job of the male bird. This particular male bird do have a line of how far he can tolerate with the intrudes. If they are at certain space, he just observe them only, if go beyond the tolerate space he would act very vigorously, makes alarming calls, even use his legs to push away the intruder. The intruders of the nest I observed is a female brown throated Sunbird. The female bird normally only tend her eggs or the fledgings. The Male bird would normally perched at a distance that he can have a clear view of his nesting.

Mass leaf bathing of sunbirds

posted in: Feathers-maintenance, Sunbirds | 2

On the evening of 27th December 2007, as I was watering my garden, I inadvertently sprayed water on the leaves of my banana plants (Musa). Suddenly, about a dozen noisy Brown-throated Sunbirds (Anthreptes malacensis) flew into the garden (below: male left, female right).

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They landed on the noni tree (Morinda citrifolia) by the driveway as well as on the wet banana leaves. Those that were on the banana leaves took advantage of the droplets to have their bath. They rolled on the leaf to wet their feathers, ruffling them in the process and then preening them.

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Soon the leaves dried up and I re-sprayed the plants, together with the taller noni tree. This attracted more birds to take advantage of the droplets. A few moved to the noni leaves. The banana leaves are large and a single leaf can take the weight of the birds (above). On the other hand, noni leaves are oval structures and are unable to support a single bird (below).

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When a bird landed on a noni leaf, at the point where it is attached to the branch, it managed to stay on it, as long as the feet are firmly on the leaf. The moment it rolled around to soak up the droplets, the leaf cannot support the bird’s weight. What happened next was that the bird literally rolled off the leaf and had to fly to another to continue its bath.

During this commotion, a pair of Oriental White-eyes (Zosterops palpebrosus) was seen joining in the fun, although they stayed in the background, among the climbers along the fence behind. There was also a pair of Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), peering from behind, but not joining in.

I had to wet the leaves a few more times to allow the birds to enjoy their bath. The entire activity lasted more than 30 minutes, although towards the end, there were only about two pairs, then only a pair before this last pair also flew off.

This is the first time I witnessed mass bathing. I tried wetting the plants a few days after but could not recreate the exciting spectacle.

YC Wee
Singapore
February 2008

Nesting of Spotted Dove

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 1

On 12th April 2007, Jeremy Lee wrote: “There is a pair of Spotted Doves (Streptopelia chinensis) just outside my window. They are nesting on a palm tree.

“The only problem is that I have never seen the pair together at all except during the nest building phase when one was bringing back some nesting materials for the other.

“Ever since then, it was always just one bird. Even at night. I searched the neighbouring trees for the other bird but to no avail. I remember as a kid we had a pair nesting on our mango tree (Mangifera indica) also outside my window. I clearly remember seeing two parents around.

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“Initially I had suspected the worst… that one of the birds had been trapped by poachers. There is a former construction site next to my condo. The birds feed there and there are always people there trapping these birds.

“A couple of days ago I saw two eggs and now there’s even chicks in the nest. My maid swears that there are two different birds sitting on the eggs. I can hardly tell the difference between the male and female as the difference in the brown coloration on the chest is not distinctly different.

“I will be continuing to take pictures of the birds. Can’s miss an opportunity like this one and at the same time invlove the kids in this little episode.”

Then on 20th September 2007, Jeremy again wrote: “This is the second time a pair pair of Spotted Doves has tried to raise a clutch here. The first time round, two chicks successfully fledged from the nest about two months ago.

“This time round I cannot confirm if it is the same pair, but they built a new nest about 45 degrees counter clockwise from the previous position.

“Yesterday morning, I noticed three House Crows (Corvus splendens) attacking the nest. I rushed to my toilet and fired three cups of water at the nest to drive off one of the crows that was already perched right beside the nest and harassing the bird that was sitting on the eggs. I spent the next 10 minutes making my presence felt and opened all my windows and stared at the crows until every one of them left.

“The birds are still sitting on the eggs. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that the crows do not come back… or they might come back when there are chicks… which are probably harder to conceal than eggs.”

The final report came on 6th October: “The pair of Spotted Dove chicks are almost ready to leave the nest. This will make it the second successful batch on this relatively new palm tree in the condo. It seems that the doves are giving this particular species of palm tree their vote of confidence and many of the other palm trees are also being taken up by other pairs of doves.

“Not sure about the name of this palm tree but it is definitely not local. Looks a lot like the date palms of the middle east. Grows tall and fast. with some very wicked looking spines at the base of each frond. The spines give a lot of support to the rather flimsy nests of the doves.

“Back to the earlier account about some marauding crows attacking the nest some weeks back. The crows never made a second visit. Every time I wake up in the morning, I would check the nest. Sometimes when I come back from overseas trips, I half expect the nest to be empty.

“But today, the two young birds are already walking about a foot away from the nest on the fronds awaiting their first flight.

“Either I gave a strong message to the crows on the day they tried to get at the eggs… or they may be smarter and feel that they are better off combing another area with a better hit rate, then go all the way back to some area they had previously searched. What they can take would already have been taken the first time round. Probably better to visit again in a few weeks where new birds have laid eggs.”

The plant is an ornamental date palm (Phoenix sp.).

Jeremy Lee
Singapore
February 2008

Breeding Kings

posted in: Kingfishers, Nesting | 2

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When “Tale of the Stock-billed Kingfisher” was written in 2006, describing the mythological story of how kingfishers’ family of Halcyon derived their names from; how a Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis) swallowed a huge fish bigger than the bird’s head, I did not expect to bump into their cousin’s nesting grounds and write about it so soon in my love affair with birds.

The White-throated Kingfisher (H. smyrnensis) is just about the most frequently seen and photographed species of kingfishers in Peninsular Malaysia (left). Yet, these very intelligent species have made their nesting grounds inconspicuous, breeding their young so discreetly that few birders have the opportunity and good fortune to discover, to observe and to document them.

The first day of 2008 could not have been a better start when a breeding female spooked me, as she flew out from a hole just after 8am, to stretch her wings and to feed. Equally taken aback, she applied her emergency air-brakes, changed direction and flew off in aghast.

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The female has blown her cover – her secret nesting cavity on the side of a river bund (right).

The incident set the precedence and confirmation of my earlier suspicion what those cavities were. Rat burrows, lizards’ haven probably but I was not to assume them to be belonging to kingfishers until seen to be believed.

Taking my pooch (on leash) for regular, short drives and walks in the mornings and evenings, provided quality time spent with a pet. Having an obedient trained canine bodyguard provided the bonus. Her disciplined temperament gave me the opportunity to observe male and female breeding behaviours of White-Throated Kingfishers over regular periods of time to justify the need to document my observations.

The Alpha male’s role was purely of sentry duties, always perching within eye-shot of the nesting site. The female spent most of her time incubating, protecting her eggs from approaching rodents and remained in burrowed cavity when night falls.

For two weeks into the month, I took casual walks around the area and made no effort to remain longer than necessary to attract the attention of passer-bys or alerted the sentry’s suspicion of my interest in his family’s assets.

On 17th January evening, female parent was first seen with grub. She flew into her nesting site confirming hatching of eggs. Photographing to document this first part article series was kept to the minimum. It was carried out discreetly and hastily from a distance without stressing parents or inconsiderately making my presence felt. The waiting of long periods for any thrill opportunity shots of chick feeding was not practiced.

I informed no one of the location of my findings. WHY? Am I being selfish?

It is human’s nature to be curious. Want to know what I was looking at with my binoculars, where is the nesting site, how MANY EGGS there are in the nest and “I WANT TO SEE! I WANT TO SEE!” syndrome etc….

Generally amongst birding circles of pals, if bird species is known to be quite rare or rare, hordes of birders and photographers having received wind of information, would descend onto the site to observe and to photograph these lifers (a birding term to mean first encounter with the species) to add to their checklist or gallery of computerized bird images. There are also the over zealous minority that would baby-sit, park themselves and gawk for hours at nesting sites.

Such overly presence of humans, unintentionally attract predators like monkeys, stray cats/dogs and ignorant children to eggs or nestlings.

The presence of careless or new excitable and or inexperienced bird observers/ photographers overstaying their period of observations unfortunately, do compromise incubation periods and feeding of hungry chicks, resulting in high probability of either parents abandoning their nests completely or chicks die from hunger.

When this happens, other rodents like centipedes, ants and maggots become undertakers/scavengers to their carcasses. Diehards and those who never learn from their mistakes are quick to blame these creepy crawlies and the four legers for chick deaths or their disappearances.

It is for this reason that I made myself a personal pledge, as an amateur bird- digiscoper, not to reveal active nesting sites however common the species may be to anyone. I also keep a cardinal rule for not posting out any nesting images before chicks fledged (fly off) in the name of preservation and conservation of bird species.

The welfare of birds comes first, not my birding articles or showing the prowess of action or creative photography shots. (I must also add that methods and scientific studies of specific rare birds/surveys carried out on field assignments by researchers differ completely, for which I am not qualified to elaborate).

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My favourite readers, you will appreciate better to enjoy an arm chair ride with me and visualise, as I journey you to the site in writing to witness Hector and Zena – a pair of very experienced White-throated Kingfishers breed and bring up their young.

My observation of nesting barbets, I thought their vigilance was thorough enough with their 3-step approach, but this pair impressed me with their vigilante skills and patience beyond doubt.

Visualise yourself at a river bund with Poinciana and Albizia trees abound. A handsome male White-throated Kingfisher with chestnut-headed plumage, wearing what looked like a large, white frontal bib perched on a branch, giving out loud ‘all clear’ signal calls sounding a descending staccato like – ‘quick quick, quick!’.

Zena, his mate flew in and perched on the same Poinciana branch as Hector (left top). In her beak, a huge, lifeless lizard lay sandwiched and waiting to be breakfast fed to the chicks (left bottom).

Met with approval by Hector, Zena double checked that no one was looking took a quick swoop and disappeared into the cavity. I expected she would take some time to feed such a big catch to 2-3 day old chicks. I hid behind a tree out of their view, no less than 10 metres away but she surprised me by flying out in less than 1min.

“Chicks eating on their own already?”

There had been times I was spotted first by the sentry upon my arrival. He squawked alarm bells keeping Zena at bay. If I got spotted by Zena, who appeared to be the only chick-feeding parent, would wait it out patiently until I hurried out and disappeared in defeat. There was once, she decoyed me by swallowing her catch and flew off in opposite direction to her nest! I felt so guilty.

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Chick feeding began after dawn and peaked between 8-9am. Lizards and river snails appeared to be their favourite diet (above). Evening feeds don’t stop until dusk.

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20th January saw discarded shells and regurgitated pellets at the entrance of the nesting cavity (right). There were also white streaks of bird droppings running down the side wall. Obviously, Zena had good housekeeping skills. One can only imagine – the chicks’ capability of reversing their rear ends toward the cavity entrance and pooped discreetly.

This image reminded me of a China’s visit to their public latrines in the mid-nineties. Do the squat over a flowing drainage system, see the contents of your bladder and guts saying ‘goodbye’ and floating away from you!’ Lucky too, if one finds a half-door latrine at Xian, then.

31st January morning was a bit special. It was 0900hrs.There was an unusual air of calm and one of the parents was around – within view.

‘Why no feeding this morning?” I thought.

My attention was drawn to the ‘tok, tok’ calls of a pair of breeding Coppersmith Barbets (Megalaima haemacephala) about 10 metres away from the nesting site. I pursued the direction of the calls. What issued was a good 10mins of ‘orni-porny’ observation and digiscopy of an exuberant pair of the smallest species of barbets, a good 25metres away across the river, high up in the skeleton trees. That was gift of good manna from heaven for my next article write up.

When the show was over, I started walking back. A quick glance had my eyes glued on a kingfisher that was smaller than the usual. My scope said something else. At the receiving end of my 82 mm diameter field scope, a stoic looking White-Throated Kingfisher fledgling was seen perched on a low fallen branch across the river.

“Oh my goodness, the chick is out!”

The time was 0913 hrs. and my digital camera went, ‘click, click’ to capture my first shot of a fledgling male as he began extracting oil from his preening gland to preen himself (below left).

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I named him, ‘Allegro’- the fast learner.

I scanned harder. Behind some branches, perched half-hidden was another chick. Two chicks (above right)!

This chick turned out to be the smallest. I named it, ‘Piccolo’.

The parents had coaxed them out of their nesting site when I wasn’t looking. Instinctively the fledglings headed 12 o’clock towards a water source.

I missed the grand finale exit. Perhaps, it was the design of their Grecian Gods – protector of all kingfishers living by the waters edge that their births into the world are not designed to be witnessed by eyes of Homo sapiens.

On the way out, I thought it was odd that the perch of one fledgling seemed higher. It turned out to be the 3rd fledging named, ‘Modesto’. This chick seemed fascinated by the flight of an over towering Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) taking off, sending a confused Modesto clinging for life and swaying with the branch.

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The three fledglings appeared to be healthy as shown in the following image profiles (above). Their soft parts – being their beaks, eyes, featherless areas and feet and toes are worth looking at closely to compare their features with adult parents, as surprisingly they are not described in many bird guide books.

The beak is greyish black and yellow tipped to match with yellow feet and toes dashed with grey on the anterior aspect. Fledglings also have white eye rings with chest and breast splashed white and mottled. White supercillium (eyebrow) is also noted.

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At 0936am, 31st January ‘08, a record of the emptied nest cavity site was photographed with tissue wrapper for size comparison (left).

The diameter of the nesting cavity is… readers’ guess.

Do join me again for the 2nd part article to enjoy the promise of many images, showing how Hector and Zena, descendants of King Ceyx, raised their brood and LET them go.

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AVIAN WRITER DAISY O’NEILL PENANG MALAYSIA
© BREEDING KINGS

Olive-backed Sunbird’s nest destroyed by a macaque

posted in: Nesting-failed, Sunbirds | 0

The Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) that was hard at work collecting fibres for weeks from a piece of fabric in front of my house was actually building a nest in the garden of my front neighbour. I did suspect that the bird was building her nest there as she would fly immediately into the compound after collecting a few strands of fibres. But I paid scant attention as these nests are common in urban and suburban gardens, even in the small balcony gardens of high-rise condominiums.

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Imagine my surprise and dismay when my neighbour Sheng Lau mentioned to me on 9th February 2008 that the nest was totally destroyed a few days back.

Apparently, five Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) descended onto the scene one day and one of the macaques simply ripped the nest from the branch and threw it away. There were two eggs in the nest but it has not been established whether the eggs were eaten by the macaque.

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Another failed nesting by a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds. Failure due to various causes is common (1, 2, 3, 4) . But all is not lost.

I was surprised to see the female bird hard at work continuing collecting fibres from the same tree in front of my house (left). This time she did not fly directly into my front neighbour’s compound. Instead, she flew into the next house, obviously to restart building her nest elsewhere, hopefully in a safer environment. Does this mean that she will be laying more eggs once the nest is rebuilt?

A persistent female sunbird indeed…
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YC Wee
Singapore
February 2008

Himalayan Swiftlet: 3. At long last, action…

posted in: Swifts-Swallows | 1

In birding as in any other activities, there are those who are conservative and those who are ultra-conservative, preferring the status quo.

This is exactly the situation with the controversy on the existence of the Himalayan Swiftlet (Aerodramus brevirostris).

As early as the late 1980s, Richard Ollington was one birder who was totally convinced of the presence of the Himalayan in Singapore. A highly respected and well-quoted birder, he published his observations in his privately circulated Singapore Bird Reports (1992, 1993). Circulation was restricted but copies were made available to ornithologists. Chantler (1999) and Wells (1999) quoted him, with the latter recording that Himalayan Swiftlets were seen making “active passage over Singapore.”

R Subaraj, another experienced and well-respected birder, has also been convinced of the Himalayan’s presence for a long time now. However, most other birders simply ignored the controversy, as swiftles, especially Himalayan, are not all that easy to study and ID.

Ollington and Subaraj did not officially provide details of the swiftlet to the Nature Society’s Records Committee. They refused to work within the system as, according to Subaraj, “it is a lack of faith in the bird records committee” and it would be “a waste of time to submit anything.” Also, the committee was said to have adopted “highly debatable methods of acceptance and decision-making in the past that were simply unacceptable!”

So the Himalayan did not make it into the official checklist.

However, Subaraj wanted to make his point that the species was abundant and could be seen regularly, as well as to “…inspire some others to look harder at swiftlets…” So at every Bird Race he listed Himalayan Swiftlet with accompanying notes as one of his observations, even though he was sure the arbitrators would reject it. The arbitrators did reject his team’s entry at every race as the species was not in the official checklist – see Alan OwYong’s comments.

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So birders have always been aware of the controversy but none were willing to meet the challenge… until now. KC Tsang, at the encouragement of bird group activist Alan OwYong, went into the field and brought back crisp images of what he believes to be Himalayan. This is the first time local birders are confronted with such images of this swiftlet.

Referring to his past inclusion of the Himalayan at every bird race, Subaraj added: “This was all in vain or was it? If Alan OwYong pushed KC into photographing swiftlets, it may have something to do with this, as he was the bird race coordinator in 2006.”

KC has, on 8th January 2008, officially submitted his records to the Nature Society’s Records Committee for consideration. Faced with KC’s official submission, the Records Committee is at last forced to act. It needs to deliberate and come to a decision soon. Unfortunately, none of the committee members are familiar with the Himalayan, with the exception of Yong Ding Li, an up-and-coming young and energetic birder. Ding Li is also the editor of Singapore Avifauna (see 1).

Ding Li is one of the few birders brave enough to recently come forward in support of the Himalayan Swiftlet. He has, in fact identified the species in the field, around the fig tree at the summit of Bukit Timah and at *Panti Forest in neighbouring Johor, Malaysia.

I have been informed that members of the Records Committee are trying hard to get assistance from experts overseas based on KC’s images. Hopefully the controversy can be resolved officially one way or the other. The decision can only be: yes, no, or don’t know.

Whatever it is, the committe needs to come to an official decision, and soon!

YC Wee
Singapore
February 2008

*You need your Yahoo ID and password to access this OrientalBirding site.

References:
1.
Chantler, P. (1999). [‘Family Apodidae (Swifts)’.] Pp.388-457 in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 5. Barn-owls to hummingbirds. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
2. Chantler, P. (2000). Swifts. A guide to the swifts and treeswifts of the world. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. (2nd ed.)
3. Lekagul, B. & Round, P.D. (1991). A guide to the Birds of Thailand. Thailand: Saha Karn Bhaet Co. Ltd.
4. Ollington, R.F. & Loh. E. (1992). 1991 Singapore Bird Report. Privately circulated.
5. Ollington, R.F. & Loh. E. (1993). 1992 Singapore Bird Report. Privately circulated.
6. Ollington, R.F. & Loh. E. (1996). Karimun Besar recent birdlist, updated to 01.04.96. Birdline Singapore Monthly Newsl. 43.
7. Wang. L.K. & Hails, C. J. (2007) An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. Suppl. 15:1-179.
8. Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.

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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