Tales of bird behaviour from Florida, US

posted in: uncategorised | 0

Our earlier post on “Look, watch and listen” attracted the attention of a naturalist from McIntosh, Florida, US. Buford Pruitt (left) maintains the blog, Nature Adventures (below) and sent in the following comment to support our call for more studies on bird behaviour:

“…Just identifying and photographing birds is not enough (for me). In this day and age of appalling species extinction, the least we naturalists can do is to document the bahavior of birds. I try to do that with my own blog.

Buford gives as examples the following, and you need to read the original account to benefit from the fascinating stories, and adds. “I am sure there are many exciting bird behaviour out in the field for our birders to document…

“So, folks, please post more stories about bird behavior. We already know how pretty they are, and there are a zillion good photographers out there, so please let’s also post on how smart birds are! The gray parrot is not an isolated intelligent bird species!”

1. A woodpecker and its bait tomato is a fascinating account of how curiosity can lead to discovering why a Red-bellied Woodpecker drilled holes in tomatoes. Can you imagine that this was to lure tomato-sucking insects for its snacks?

2. The cormorant and the catfish is another observation on the use of a “tool” – in this case an oyster bed, by a Double-crested Cormorant to break off the three long and poisonous spines of a catfish it caught before swallowing it.

3. The owl, hawk, crows and coots at dusk on Orange Lake is about how one species affects the behaviour of others. The arrival of a Great Horned Owl just before dark makes the coots floating around the lake nervous. The coots congregate in small groups for mutual protection. The arrival of a pair of Bigmouth Hawks (actually, red-shouldered hawks Buteo lineatus), causes the coots further concern, so they congregate more. When the Fish Crows join in, the coots form tighter groups, so the original 50 flocks now become 20. Why not visit the site to find out what happen next?

YC,
Thanks for the compliments and the plug. I like the way you handled the “teasers.” I am a little embarrased to admit that there is no such thing, at least around here, as a bigmouth hawk. They are red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus), but I call them bigmouths because they scream all day long. But that’s better than listening to barking dogs! LOL

Adventures,
Buford

Black-naped Tern: Defense vomiting

posted in: Interspecific | 6

This post on the mobbing of a Grey Heron by Black-naped Terns (and associated images) has been incorporated into the publication below. Get a PDF copy of the paper HERE.

Deng, S. H., T. K. Lee & Y. C. Wee, 2008. Black-naped terns (Sterna sumatrana Raffles, 1822) mobbing a grey heron (Ardea cinerea Linnaeus, 1758). Nature in Singapore 1: 117-127.

Black-naped Terns mobbing a Grey Heron

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern, Interspecific | 0

April 2008 is when the Black-naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana) on the rocky islets off northern Singapore are actively breeding. Many eggs have already been hatched and young chicks are everywhere (above). This is the time when the adult birds are most protective of their chicks. This is also the time when they are extremely aggressive with intruders.

Lee Tiah Khee was at the scene when an adult Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) approached the colony. A large Grey Heron in the midst of their breeding colony poses much danger to eggs and chicks. Standing 90 cm or more tall, with a prominently long and pointed bill, it is a formidable intruder indeed. And although herons normally take fish mainly, they also take amphibians, crabs, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, snakes, rodents and birds – possible also bird eggs.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) has actually been reported to consume the eggs and chicks of terns and other birds (Martinez-Vilalta & Motis, 1992).

The tern that first noticed the heron set off the alarm and immediately attacked the intruder (above). Naturally the heron tried to defend itself, opening its bill wide and taking a threatening stance. But reinforcement arrived and more terns began mobbing the heron (below).

Black-naped Terns may be a third the size of the heron, but they are extremely agile in flight. Besides, they out-number the lone heron. And they are extremely aggressive during this stage of breeding. They put up a spirited defense, mobbing the intruder from all sides, swooping low one after another. And there was the constant shrill cries of the defenders that was enough to scare away most intruders. Terns are generally noisy birds and a colony of disturbed breeding terns can be extremely vocal and agitated indeed.

All these were too much for the intruding heron. In the end it left the colony, flying off, followed by the noisy terns (above).

The above images were first posted in NaturePixels.org. The account has now been published: Deng, S. H., T. K. Lee & Y. C. Wee, 2008. Black-naped terns (Sterna sumatrana Raffles, 1822) mobbing a grey heron (Ardea cinerea Linnaeus, 1758). Nature in Singapore 1: 117-127. A PDF copy can be downloaded from this LINK

References:
1.
Martinez-Vilalta, A. & Motis, A. (1992). [‘Family Ardeidae (Herons)]. Pp. 376-429 in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 1. Ostrich to ducks. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
2. Podulka, S. (2004). Defense bahaviour. Pp. 6.52-6.56 in: Podulka, S., Rohrbaugh, R.W. Jr & Bonney, R. eds. Handbook of bird biology. Ithaca, NY: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Comment by Shawn

Made Tuesday, 22 of April , 2008 at 4:39 pm

I am surprised that as a Bird Ecology Group that linked to NSS, there is no sensitivity in publishing active nesting images!!

Comment by YC

Made Tuesday, 22 of April , 2008 at 7:29 pm

The breeding area is an open secret, known to birders, photographers and fishermen. The breeding months are also well known. However, the area is rather isolated and there are police patrols and boats are not allowed to approach too near the islets.

Comment by Subaraj

Made Tuesday, 22 of April , 2008 at 9:42 pm

Considering the very clear and close images, I do hope that the photographer ensured that he was not too close to the colony, to himself create a disturbance.

While it is true that this breeding site is well known and that patrol boats are in the area, I have observed fishing boats right next to the islet and on one occasion, a photographer standing on the islet itself, with his camera and tripod, while the terns flew around agitated!

As a breeding resident, the Black-naped Tern is Locally Endangered, with just one active breeding site.

Comment by YC

Made Tuesday, 22 of April , 2008 at 9:49 pm

You need to see the equipment these photographers are armed with. The are bazookas, unlike the “toys” birders normally carry.

Comment by Shawn

Made Tuesday, 22 of April , 2008 at 10:10 pm

OK, now I get it. If it is well known to birders and photographers, it is ok to publish active nesting images without considering the welfare and well being of the birds. Particualtly as Subaraj mentioned Black-naped Tern is locally endangered and the place is the only known active breeding site.

I will be really interested to find out what is the code of ethics in NSS and BESGroup towards breeding endangered birds?

BTW, looking at the chics photos, even the bazookas 0f 600mm need to be really close. Imagine if the present of Grey Heron is considered a threat, which all these inconsiderate visitors, how will the birds feel???

Comment by YC

Made Tuesday, 22 of April , 2008 at 11:54 pm

By the way, are you a photographer, Shawn? Can you let us know how near can a photographer go, using a 600mm lens plus a x2 tele-converter, before he is unable to focus on his subject. We can then have an idea of the relative distance involved.

Comment by Shawn

Made Wednesday, 23 of April , 2008 at 8:37 am

I hope you do not shift focus. My question was a ethical one and not technical. Since you want to discuss technical, Let talk technical. For a 600mm lens (be it Nikon or Canon), the minimum focusing distance is about 6m. Since you are a photographer, I am sure you know what is an Extension Tube, that can bring minimum focus distance to 3 or 4m. Even without the ET, and the photographer is standing 10m away, you don’t think there will be any disturbance? BTW, not all photographers are using 600mm, since you are associate with NaturePixel, someone managed to pull a couple of photos for me showing the lens that they were using shooting these poor birds, not too familiar with the lens, but some are 200mm or 300mm:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3080/2430888327_e9dca2ae47_o.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2383/2431703254_cb89e5f622_o.jpg

Enough of the technical, let’s come back to ethical issue,let me reiterate my concern and question, as a blog that linked to NSS, what is the code of ethic in active breeding site?

Have you thought of how many people, be it photographers, birders or just layman will be attracted to the active breeding site? Please pare a thought for the poor birds and their chicks.

Comment by Vanny P

Made Wednesday, 23 of April , 2008 at 11:41 am

To me there’s always a trade off between maintaining the welfare of the subject, vis a vis documenting their behaviour while nesting.

I supposed without knowing how the photographs were made by the photographer, we should probably offer him/her the benefit of the doubt and assumed it has been done in good faith and without detrimental effect to the birds.

To address specifically to the point raised by Shawn.” Imagine if the present of the grey heron is considered a threat, which all these inconsiderate visitors, how will the birds feel”

My take is if the terns find the photographers a threat, they will have similarly been dive-bombed. Terns and some other birds have been known to dive-bombed on what they perceived as intruders and threats. If they think the photographers are a threat to their offspring, they will not hesitate to attack.

This is what happens to a group of us when attempt to visit breeding colonies of terns and seabirds in the coast off UK.

As for how near the photographer is, Im not able to comment on that because I’m not well versed in photography and how the lenses function. Maybe Shawn can shed more light on this because he seems to be expert in this field?

to Subaraj, Oh dear, for photographer to stand on the rock at another occassion was a no no. I hope you have a chance to advise him/her not to repeat it again the next round.

and to YC, thanks for putting this up. I’ve enjoyed your site tremendously.

cheers.

Comment by YC

Made Wednesday, 23 of April , 2008 at 2:49 pm

Thanks for your comments, Vanny. And for your support.

Comment by BESG

Made Wednesday, 23 of April , 2008 at 8:13 pm

For Shawn’s information, NSS has currently no code of ethics regarding active breeding sites, period.

I have communicated with the photographer who informed me that he used a 600mm lens with a tele-converter attached. His boat was about 18-20 metres away. And the images have been heavily cropped. And I believe that there was no disturbance to the colony.

How other photographers operate is outside my concern. How many other people will be attracted to the site as a result of this posting is a matter of speculation.

Comment by Subaraj

Made Wednesday, 23 of April , 2008 at 10:06 pm

Hi Vanny. With regards to the photographer standing on the tern islet, I set the marine police on him by stating that it was illegal to land there without permission (not sure if that is true)!

As for the debate, there are ethical photographers and there are non-ethical photographers! We have to be careful about the latter as they are out there….those that trim vegetation around an active nest to make for a better photo, those that stand for long hours under a nesting hole which causes the bird to abandon, those that put their interest above the interest of the animals that they photograph. These morons have to be disgraced somehow, if education fails.

However, there are a few who go out of their way to minimise any disturbance and still obtain wonderful documentation. To these few, I say well done and keep it up. The data obtained is crucial in improving our knowledge of the species needs and this will allow us to find ways to improve management of our fragile and shrinking eco-systems, so that the biodiversity larger remains.

At the end of the day, there is always a need for balance. However, nature’s welfare should never be compromised. Blogging sensitive nesting sites must be done carefully. The photos and text should never reveal the exact location of the site and the contributors ought to be screened so that they do not attain fame, if it is at the expense of nature.

Just my “two cents”.

Comment by Vanny P

Made Thursday, 24 of April , 2008 at 12:36 am

Subaraj,

Although I do not necessarily agree with what you’ve expressed, I respect your point of view. Specifically to the black-naped terns issue on hand here, I feel one should not be too swift to pass moral judgment as to whether a photographer is ethical, or one that is less so before we know him/her well enough. Unfortunately Shawn appeared to have formed his conclusion despite less than conclusive evidence, but have you Mr. Subaraj? I hold the view we have to give the benefit of the doubt unless the evidence shows otherwise.

As to sending the marine officer to the photographer that planted his camera equipment on the nesting rocks of the black-naped terns , I find it was a rather, how should I put it, futile effort. Firstly, it may not be illegal in Singapore to do so. Secondly the marine officer may not be able to educate the person on the right way to approach nesting birds and thirdly, it is a waste of state’s resources when there are more important tasks at hand for them to do.

I re-read the article on the black-naped terns again, and I do not see mention of the precise location of the terns as you seems to suggest so. Perhaps I overlooked, I beg your pardon. However, in this internet era and through the ease of googling for information, I came across many sites and information that seems to lead me straight to the location of the terns in Singapore. One such location even includes the detail map of the place. I believe It was quite dated and talked about possible conservation efforts of the black-naped terns in Louyang Rock. And I was pleasantly surprised to find one champion of the cause bearing the same name-sake as you Mr Subaraj. Only Subaraj was his first name, and yours is the surname I supposed 🙂

I copy the link here: YC please feel free to remove or edit if this is not appropriate.

http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/heritage/changi/loyangrock.html

My point really is with the information widely available across the web, pin pointing the exact location of the nesting rocks is as easy as finding direction to the Harrods. What additional harm, if any, can this article possibly bring?

I think I have raised enough here, and I probably should stop and go back to my quiet reading.

If any of my view above offends anyone, my sincere apology.

Cheers

Comment by Subaraj

Made Thursday, 24 of April , 2008 at 10:18 pm

Hi Vanny,

Thanks for your views. No, I certainly do not judge wildlife photographers without foundation. However, after 27 years in the field, I have known my fair share of both the ethical and non-ethical variety….so I am naturally cautious. All the comments regarding bad practices are based on personal encounters and actual events. There are a few photographers, that I know, who I would trust. They will simply not want to take any photos if there was a risk to the animal concerned and when they do, they are very careful.

With regards to the photographer on the islet, there was no way to reach the chap without a boat and the marine police are supposed to patrol the area. Additionally, this islet has a beacon on it and, to the best of my knowledge, you cannot land there without written permission from the authorities. Hence, setting the police on him was the right thing to do and immediately removed the disturbance to the tern colony.

Actually, my first name is Subaraj (surname is Rajathurai). I did write that article and it was posted by the chap on his website. This was done at a time when they were planning the 2 kilometre coastal boardwalk and had plans to have it go out to the rock, where the terns were nesting. This would have spelled the end of the nesting site and our collective feedback made them change their minds.

Finally, when it comes to more sensitive situations such as birds nesting, I would still prefer a proven trustworthy photographer, as it is simply not worth taking any risk with such situations. Wildlife in Singapore have enough to contend with….development, over-management, sanitisation, large weekend crowds! They do not need wildlife lovers adding to the disturbance factor.

A cemetery in Penang: A birdwatcher’s paradise

posted in: Habitat | 0

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Choo Teik Ju was in Penang, Malaysia towards the end of March 2008 and was impressed by the rich bird life in the Mt Erskin Chinese Cemetery (above).

“The Mt Erskin Chinese Cemetery is near Tanjung Tokong, which is only 15 minutes drive from the city center of Georgetown. The cemetery has lots of bamboos and old trees and can be dated back to the Qing Dynasty Emperor 光緒 and the early days of Kuomintang (民國) era.

“The maturity of the environment and lack of human presence except recent “Qing Ming” festival, this place is almost without human. The other factor that this place could be a good place for birds is its hilly geographical nature, with also some streams running through the area.

“From such an experience, I think cemetery can potentially be an excellent place to be a bird sanctuary, as well as miniature wildlife reserve as I noticed droppings of civet cat as well, and the presence of assam fruit (Tamarindus indica) and ciku fruit (Maniklara zapota) on the floor may be a good indication of bat presence as well.”

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Teik Ju’s list of birds from the cemetery, as shown in the images above (clockwise from top left): White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) x3, Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica), Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris) x3, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti) x4, Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) and Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis). Other species sighted include Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradisus) x3, Pied Triller(?) (Lalage nigra) x3, Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) x4, Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus), Peaceful Dove (Geopelia striata), Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) and Green Iora (Aegithina viridissima).

Dr. Redzlan Abdul Rahman and his birding paradise

posted in: Travel-Personality | 0

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Since late February 2008, Dr. Redzlan Abdul Rahman has been contributing a total of six exciting accounts on bird behaviour that you can access HERE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. More are on the pipeline as he keeps on documenting the birds that visit his backyard. Yes, his backyard.

That’s him on the left with his two young sons and his photographic equipment. His able assistant is his elder son, Muhammad Firdaus, in a dark blue shirt. He started off in March 2007 with a pair of cheap binoculars scanning the night sky to look at stars. But bad weather and cloudy skies made him switch to watching birds instead. Now he has swapped his original bino with a William APO 8X42 with close focusing features. And of course his Digital SLR and accessories.

A doctor by profession, he runs his private clinic in the Malaysian town of Raub, in the state of Pahang. The state itself is an exciting place to bird watch. Within the state are a number of hill resorts like Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands. This is also where Taman Negara, Malaysia’s National Park is sited. Birders from all over Malaysia as well as Singapore make regular pilgrimages to these areas, especially Fraser’s Hill.

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Living in such a lush area, Dr. Redzlan, who blogs under the name Tabib, need not leave his backyard to find birds. In fact, the majority of his many images that he post in his blog come from his backyard (above). The dead tree in the background is where he photographed most of his birds. Actually, he spends about two hours each morning before work and two hours in the evening after work to study and photograph birds.

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The flock of Blue-throated Bee-eaters (Merops viridis) (left top) and the Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) (left bottom) are just two examples of the many species of birds that gather on the bare branches of this dead tree.

Many birders start off as twitchers, looking at birds, listing the species seen and seeking out more and more species to increase the list. If you can call Tabib a birder, then he is one rare birder who becomes a twitcher only after he got fascinated with bird behaviour. This is only because through the few years that he got involved with birds, so many species visited his backyard that he got to listing them. His current number is fast exceeding 40. The montage below showcases only a few of the species he encountered.

Living in a neighbourhood rich in bird life, he is priviledged to encounter his birds actively doing things – catching insects, courting, squabbling, nesting, etc. Other birders and photographers usually encounter birds that just perch, waiting to be photographed, thus the many portrait shots that we see in webpages.

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I “discovered” Tabib some months ago when he linked one of his postings to BESG’s blog. When I visited his page, I was totally dazzled by the number and variety of images of birds and their behaviour. He was kind enough to allow me to repost some of his earlier images for a wider audience and the close relationship developed from there.

YC Wee
Singapore
April 2008

Blue Rock Thrush

posted in: Species | 2

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The Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) breeds in southern Europe and northwest Africa and from central Asia to northern China and Malaysia.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the thrush, true to its name, breeds in limestone outcrops and according to Collar (2005), is has been observed recently to breed also in city buildings. Here, it is a resident as well as a migratory bird.

The birds that KC Tsang highlight here were photographed among the limestone hills around Kek Look Tong, an area known as Gunung Rapat in Ipoh, Perak. Such limestone habitat is where the bird builds its nest, a shallow cup or rough pad of grass, leaves and rootlets lined with soft grass, and sometimes also feathers and/or plant floss. The nest is placed under a rock overhang or in a cliff crevice.

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The male is smoky blue with dark wings (top) while the female and immature have dark brown upperparts and paler brown and scaly underparts (above). The bird is omnivorous, taking insects and other arthropods on the ground as well as on the wing. It also eats snails, lizards and berries.

The male has a clear and rich melodious song.

Incidentally, the bird is Malta’s national bird.

Addendum: The Blue Rock Thrush has apparently been spotted a few time in Singapore. The first record was in 1991 when Richard Ollington photographed it in Tuas. There have been very few sightings since.

References:
1.
Anon. (2006). Birds of Perak. Bird Group, Malaysian Nature Society, Perak Branch.
2. Collar, N. J.. (2005). Family Turdidae (Thrushes). Pp. 514-805 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Christie, D. A. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 10. Cucuoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
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. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London.

Yellow-vented Bulbul bathing in the rain

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 3

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Not all birds take shelter once it rains. Not this Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) anyway. It perched on a branch shaded very lightly by the leaves of the curry bush (Myrraya koenigii). The droplets of rain fell on its plumage. The bird shook them off and fluffed its feathers.

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It was obviously having a bath.

This went on for about four minutes and the bird moved from point to point. And all the time it was enjoying the rain.

Then the rain stopped and the bulbul moved to an exposed branch, stretched out fully and sang a few of its short-syllable song. It then flew off.

Bathing is one way of keeping the feathers in top form. Preening, anting, dust and sun bathing are other methods.

YC Wee
Singapore
April 2008

Anatomy of a munia’s nest

posted in: Nests | 5

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Tan Teo Seng brought me an abandoned bird nest from his fruit farm in Kota Tinggi, Johor recently. Measuring 300 x 130 mm, it is firmly lodged between the narrow forking twigs of a jambu (Syzygium sp.) plant that grew around the farm (above).

When examined closely, it was found to be made up of two components (below).

The nest itself is an oval structure, 80 x 60 mm, with a small round opening of 35 mm diameter near the top (above, below right). Overhanging the opening is a porch, not very prominent and slightly downward pointing.

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The nest has a small oval chamber of 80 x 60 mm that is placed slightly higher, such that the upper roof is 60 mm thick while the base is 80 mm thick (below).

This oval nest sits smugly on a mass of leafy materials that fill up the narrowing end of the slender branches making up the fork (above left).

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The external nest is made of mainly dried bamboo leaves, interspersed with slender grass stems and inflorescence branches, like Panicum sp. The porch is of mainly grass inflorescence branches.

Field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng identified it as a nest of a munia. I checked with Wells (2007) and the closest fit is that of White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata). However, Restall (1996) describes the entrance to the nest as “low down on one side…” versus “end entrance” in Wells as well as in the collected specimen. Both authors do not mention that the nest is made up of two components.

YC Wee & Tan Teo Seng
Singapore
April 2008

References:
1.
Restall, R. (1996). Munias and mannikins. East Sussex: Pica Press.
2. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London.

Long-tailed Sibia eating mollusc

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates | 0

KC Tsang was at Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia on 16th February 2008 when he encountered a Long-tailed Sibia (Heterophasia picaoides) picking up snails (mollusc) and eating them (below). The sibia is a lower and upper montane forest species, uncommon below 1,200 metres altitude. The very long tail and white wing patch of this bird makes it easy to recognise in the field. It is abundant around this hill station, tame and occurs in small flocks moving around the forst canopy, the prominent long tail dangling behind.

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The bird is a generalist, eating flower buds, fruits like berries and figs, insects like cicadas and swarming termites and small frogs. It has also been observed harvesting nectar from various flowers like silk-cotton (Bombax ceiba), coral tree (Erythrina spp.) and cherries (Prunus spp.).

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The snail, tiny and slender, occurs among rotting wood in the forest floor. The sibia is eating it as a food as well as a calcium supplement. Note that it swallows the snail narrow end first (above and below).

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Various snail species have been recorded eaten by different birds like Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris), Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) and Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) [here]; Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) [here]; and Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) [here].

Nesting birds need calcium for egg production and to feed the growing chicks

Reference:
Strange, M. (2004). Birds of Fraser’s Hill: An illustrated guide and checklist. Nature’s Niche, Singapore.

Javan Pond Heron in flight

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern | 0

It is fascinating to watch the Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa) taking off in flight. From the ground it bends its legs to a crouch, then jumps up, to gain the initial impetus. As it jumps, its huge pair of wings unfolds and begins flapping (below). The downward strokes lift the bird into the air. Once airborne, the bird begins a continuous series of flapping to maintain its altitude.

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When level flight is reached, it has its legs and feet fully extended backwards and neck drawn into an “S” position. It may flap some more to maintain its altitude for some distance before gliding, with wings fully extended.

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The wings are typically broad and elliptical. Note the large primaries and secondaries that make up the major wing feathers (above). Note also the short, rounded tail. Unlike many raptors that need longer tails for maneuvering as they chase preys, herons do not need to maneuver about. A shorter tail allows the bird to take off quickly but it reduces its ability to make sharp turns.

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The dramatic image above shows the powerful large wings in their down stroke, providing its initial lift.

Since this pond heron was recently sighted, photographers had a field day documenting its presence and flight (1, 2).

Mark Chua
Singapore
April 2008

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26 Responses

  1. kris

    I just found a young dollarbird in the garden.. It seems to have left the nest too early and cannot fly yet. How am i to keep and feed it for a few days untill it can fly.???

  2. Iwan

    We have a small pond in our garden surrounded by trees and steep bedrock. The other day we saw a heron flying over and attempting to land – I guess to try to eat our small stock of fish. We managed to frighten it away before it landed, and have since installed trip wires around the pond in order to dissuade the bird. The amount of shelter around the pond means that a heron would have to land practically vertically. Does anyone know whether these birds have the agility to hover and land in this way, or do they always need a “glidepath” in order to land successfully?

  3. Khng Eu Meng

    Today, at the former Bidadari Cemetery, there was a buzz about a sighting of a Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). I heard some birders say this nightjar isn’t commonly seen in Singapore. After some hunting, we spotted it asleep on a tree branch, some 15 m above ground. This was rather interesting as my previous encounters with nightjars have been on either terra firma or on low branches.

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151125012234135&set=a.108191464134.96538.617499134&type=1&theater

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

    1)Which is the best spot in Bidadari cemetery for bird watch?

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

    3)What are some of the rare bird species that can be found at Bidadari?

    4)Where is the particular hot spot for the hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and some of the rare migratory bird?

    5)Which part of Bidadari are richest in it wildlife?

    6)Can you name me the 59 migratory bird species found?

  5. YC

    Why not search the website using the word ‘Bidadari’ to obtain the information you need. There should be sufficient info in past postings to satisfy you.

  6. Firdaus Razak

    Hai, I just want to ask did anybody had an experience bring bird from oversea via MasKargo? Did the bird will stress at high altitude?

  7. Chung Wah

    Hi, I am new to bird photography! Could anyone advise a good pair of binoculars to get for this hobby?

  8. Geam Liang

    I ‘acquired’ a female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 5 days ago – was in a public place when the bird flew overhead hit the wall and dropped right in front of me dazed. I picked it up, it appeared unhurt but could not sustain it’s flight. I have since constructed a fairly large ‘cage’ for it, about 4ft x 2fx x 2ft and placed it there last night. I temporarily placed her in a normal bird cage until I had completed the build.
    From what I have read up, it’s a fruit, seed and insect feeder and also nectar, flower buds. It’s doing as well as it can on bananas, papaya, jack-fruit (didn’t touch the grape) and seeds (black and white sunflower and other smaller ones). It loves to bathe so I’ve gotten it a tray and from what I read it’s important to keep things clean as it easily succumbs to infection.
    Does anyone else have any useful experience and sharing on it’s upkeep? I suspect this bird is an escapee – as far as I can read up, it’s not common, if at all, found in Georgetown, Penang where I am. I’m also not optimistic that it can survive if I were to set it free – assuming it can sustain it’s flight and not go crashing down and if there were dogs/cats around that would be the end of it.
    I can attach some pictures but not sure how to do this…
    thanks.

  9. Lee Chiu San

    The blue-crowned hanging parrot, even though very closely related to the lovebirds, is a nectar feeder. You would raise it the way you raise a lorikeet – which is a messy process. And because you are mixing batches of food for just one little bird, whereas I used to do it for about half a dozen pigeon-sized lorikeets each morning, I don’t know how you are going to get the portions down to manageable sizes. Anyway, here goes, with my recipe for feeding big lories. You can adjust the proportions down accordingly for your little bird.

    The staple diet would be a couple of slices of soft fruit (papaya, apple, grapes, even though I am surprised that you said the bird would not eat any) and a mixture of cooked rice sweetened with nectar mix.

    How to make nectar mix? Go to a pharmacy and get a can of food for invalids or infants. I use Complan, but I am sure any good baby formula would do. I usually make up enough to fill a beer mug, but there is no way you need that amount for a day’s feeding. If in doubt, make the mixture thinner, not thicker. Birds cannot digest baby formula that is too thick. If it is too thin, they simply have to consume more to get the required amount of energy. Then to this mug, add half a teaspoonful of rose syrup. Also stir in about a cup of cooked rice, well mashed up.

    In the case of your bird, I suggest that you pour this lot into an ice-cube tray, freeze the mixture, and defrost one cube to feed it each day.

    Now, you said that this bird eats sunflower seeds. This is most unusual for a blue-crowned hanging parrot. Are you sure that this is actually the species you have? Could it be possible that you have actually got a pet lovebird that escaped? There are so many different artificially-created breeds of lovebirds in so many colours that you might have been mistaken.

    If you actually have a lovebird, feeding is much simpler. Just go to the nearest pet shop, buy a packet of budgerigar or cockatiel seed of a reputable international brand, and offer it to the bird. You can supplement this with a couple of slices of fruit each day, and that will be all. Plus of course fresh water and a piece of cuttlefish bone to nibble on.

  10. Lee Chiu San

    About nectar feeding birds. I forgot to add that feeding nectar is messy, and it goes rancid very quickly in our tropical weather. Feeding containers have to be removed and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. The birds also splatter the mixture and wipe their beaks on perches and the bars of the cage. All my lories and lorikeets used to be housed in outdoor aviaries which were hosed down daily.

    If Geam Liang does not think the bird will survive if released, I really hope that it is a case of mistaken identity, and that you have a lovebird, rather than a blue-crowned hanging parrot. In our part of the world, all available lovebirds are domestically bred, take to captivity readily, and are easy to feed with commercially available seed mixtures. Yes, and being domestic pets, they would not survive if released.

  11. Geam Liang

    Thank you Chiu San for your inputs. Thus far, bananas and papayas work well. I’m not sure why it did not take to grapes – will try again. Am I supposed to peel it? I didn’t the last time, basically skewered a couple of grapes to a satay stick and positioned it as I did for the sliced and skinned papaya and peeled bananas.
    I have yet to try rice and certainly not nectar but will try out your concoction – have half a mind to go to a pet shop to see if they carry nectar for birds. The ice-cube freeze method is a good one, will try that. I might be mistaken on the sunflower seeds… not touched but it did eat the much smaller roundish, mixed colored seeds. Will remove the sunflower seeds.
    I’m sure it’s a female blue crowned hanging parrot.. it sleeps like a bat every night.

  12. Lee Chiu San

    When feeding local birds which are unfamiliar with imported fruits such as grapes, it helps to split the fruits to expose the edible parts. As to your remark that the bird sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, yes, that is the way blue-crowned hanging parrots sleep.

  13. Geam Liang

    Thanks… I need to think like a bird – yup. She has probably not seen a grape much less know that it’s edible, unless the previous owner has fed her with grapes… even then… Today she’s done pretty well making the most of the banana and all of the papaya plus quite a bit of seeds. Will try the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup.
    Will regular honey do instead of rose syrup?
    Thanks.

  14. Lee Chiu San

    About making nectar to feed birds. Most aviculturalists do not use honey for two reasons: 1. It is expensive and does not seem to give any added benefits. 2. Honey is made by bees, and the composition varies wildly. Some honeys are also known to cause fungal infection in birds.

    If you do not want to buy a huge bottle of rose syrup just for one tiny bird, there are cheaper alternatives. The first is plain table sugar, though most don’t seem to like it very much.

    What many birds will accept quite readily as a sweetener is condensed milk – the type with sugar that coffee shop owners use.

    Many, many birds have a sweet tooth (or should I say sweet beak?) Besides the usual suspects of lories, lorikeets, sunbirds and hummingbirds, for whom it is an essential part of the diet, nectar mixture is readily consumed by mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, barbets, doves, parrots of all kinds, and a whole host of other species.

  15. Geam Liang

    I tried the condensed mild, placed in in a small bottle cap.. only the ants showed interest. Am I supposed to dilute it? I didn’t =( I took you advice and refrained from honey. Have yet to find Rose Syrup from the shelves of TESCO… will try to mix the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup/sugar syrup this week…

  16. David Thackray

    Can anyone help me identify a bird I saw in Singapore last week. Size of a smakll dove or thrush. Dark metallic back. Grey breast with red throat, chest.

  17. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers

  18. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers.

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

    One of best souce for the bird watcher’s enjoying knowledge about ornithology

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at a University in Switzerland and I urgently need to get in touch with photographer Chan Yoke Meng, who takes beautiful photographs of birds near Singapore. Would you please mail me the email address of this photographer!

    Thanks,
    Martin

  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

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

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

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

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

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

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