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).


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.


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).


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
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



“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?!



“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).


“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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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).


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
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.

Oriental Honey-buzzard: Sightings in March

posted in: Raptors | 3


On 26th March 2008, KC Tsang reported an Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus) peeping into his kitchen: “Looks like this OHB loves to hang around my kitchen
 window, and the estate where I am staying. The same 
kind of behavior was evident too the previous years. It 
will announce its presence by blasting pass my kitchen 
window as it did this early morning.

“…the assam tree (Tamarindus indicus) is its favourite roosting place
 for the night. Managed to flush the fellow out, and he 
went to perch on the lamp post (left)… then it flew off to the nearby mahogany
 tree (Swietenia macrophylla), perched on the trunk (below)… Then he decided to fly off for a while. 

“…in half
 an hour’s time the bird returned and perched on top of 
the tree which was directly opposite my bedroom
 window… The last encounter, two or more years ago, that I had 
with this bird was at Lowland Road when he buzzed me
 by flying low, just over my head, and landed on the 
mango tree (Mangifera indica)…”


Originally thought to be one and the same bird, KC was alerted by an observant and experienced Malaysian birder that there were actually two birds. The first bird that flew from the lamp post to the mahogany tree was a juvenile. The juvenile can be recognised by its yellow cere, the leathery band of skin covering the base of the bill, into which the nostrils open (below left). The second bird that arrived half an hour later was an adult male, as seen in his grey cere (below right).


Urban Singaporeans are becoming more familiar with this large raptor. An encounter with this bird never fails to impress people as many are only familiar with the smaller mynas, bulbuls, starlings or even the orioles. Larger birds like the crows obviously do not excite but the hornbills do. Now the Oriental Honey-buzzard is making its presence felt. In the same month we had a few other sightings.


Earlier in the month we posted an account of Koh Jia Hwei’s encounter with one in a tree among the Housing Board highrise apartment buildings.

In the same month, Choo Teik Ju was visibly excited when a large Oriental Honey-buzzard passed overhead when he was at Gibraltar Crescent: “I was stunned when I saw a sudden and quick shadow passing by me few yards away and after a while, maybe ten seconds later, lots of birds (Peaceful Dove, White-breasted Kingfisher, Eurasian Tree Sparrow) were flying in a rush to escape this creature. When I looked at the surrounding carefully, I saw this raptor tearing apart an Eurasian Tree Sparrow. The raptor later flew onto the roof top (above).”

The Oriental Honey-buzzard breeds in Siberia, Sakhalin, North China, Manchuria, Korea and Japan. In winter it moves as far south as Indonesia and the Philippines. A few birds end up in Singapore, where it is a common winter visitor and passage migrant. Although seen in all months of the year, it is more abundant from November to March.

Singapore is one big Garden City and the many trees planted along roads, park-connectors, mini-parks and large regular parks obviously are paying dividends. These trees attract bees and wasps, and unless the hives are massive, they would invariably be left unmolested by the authorities. The bird feeds mainly on the larvae of these hymenopterans, as well as the honey combs. Even the larvae of paper wasps are food for the bird. In addition, it takes various insects and occasionally lizards, frogs, birds and small mammals.

Obviously there is plenty of food around for this raptor throughout the year.

All image by KC Tsang except the raptor on the roof, by Choo Teik Ju.

Malayan Whistling Thrush: 3. Feeding the chicks

posted in: Feeding chicks, Nesting | 1

The pair of Malayan Whistling Trush (Myophonus robinsoni) that nests in a factory warehouse in Cameron Highlands, Peninsular Malaysia has been under 24 hour observation ever since Allan Teo set up an internet video camera using infrared lighting.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the sexes can only distinguished by size, the female a little smaller. As such, it is not possible to establish the sexes from observations of the video.


The first feeding takes place around dawn or before when the brooding adult leaves the nest in search of food. It returns within half an hour or so to feed the chicks, making a few returns until the chicks are satisfied (above).

Then throughout the day, one or the other adult visits the nest with food for the nestlings. Feeding may take every 10-30 minutes or longer. As posted earlier, the food brought includes small snakes and moths.


Visits are noisy affairs. The moment an adult approaches the nest, the two chicks get visibly excited, calling loudly and gaping widely. It can only feed one chick at a time and so returns soon enough to feed the other. Sometimes the adult remains in the nest for few minutes before flying off. In the above right image, although an adult is in the nest with the two chicks, one of the chick is gaping and begging for food – probably the other adult is nearby.

We know that there are two adults involved in feeding. As times, the adult in the nest only leaves when the other arrives. In a particular case, an adult arrived to pass on food to the one in the nest to feed the chicks.

The night temperature inside the warehouse is 16-17 Degrees Celsius. Obviously it is much colder outside because of the windchill factor as recorded by the weather station set up there.

Allan Teo & YC Wee
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.

Pink-necked Green Pigeon: Nesting in an urban garden

posted in: Nesting, Pigeon-Dove | 0

Joyce Kok and her husband had a pair of Pink-necked Green Pigeons (Treron griseicauda) nesting in their garden recently. The birds built a simple platform of twigs at the top of their potted Dracaena fragrans plant along their balcony (below left). As the nesting was so accessible, they kept watch on the progress, documenting the stages from eggs to chicks. It was through the efforts of Patricia Thong that we received the details of their observations and the images that are posted here.


The birds laid two white eggs (top right). One egg hatched, but they failed to notice it as the chick was brooded close to the parent and under one of the wings. And the nest was never empty as there was always one parent in it. The male sitting in the nest (below left) is actually brooding a chick that she failed to notice. The other image where the the male is with an old chick, shows the other egg that remained unhatched.


What Joyce did notice was that both parents helped in egg incubation and chick brooding. She especially noticed that the male incubated the eggs and brooded the chick the entire day (below left) while the female took over the night shift (below right).


In the image on the left, notice the distinct upper eyelid of the male bird. The eye of the chick is covered by a translucent membrane, the nictitating membrane, also called the third eyelid. This membrane moves sideways across the eye and helps to clean the surface of the eye as well as keep it moist.

Pink-necked Green Pigeons are now becoming common around our urban areas and it is not unusual to see pairs nesting in trees, bushes and potted plants found in small gardens.


Malayan Whistling Thrush: 2. Night at the nest

posted in: Nesting, Raptors | 0


A pair of nesting Malayan Whistling Thrushes (Myophonus robinsoni) was located in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia on March 2008 (above). An internet video camera was installed on 24th March by Allan Teo to monitor activities on a 24-hour basis . Only infrared lighting was used at night and during low lighting conditions during the day. The following account is based on computer screen observations and the images other than the one above by Allan, are screen grabs.


The video was working at around 2320 hours and an adult was already at the nest, to prepare the chicks for the night (above).

It is to be noted that the two sexes of the Malayan Whistling Thrush can only be separated by size – the female is slightly smaller. As such, it is not possible to ascertain whether it was the male or the female that was at the nest that night, or any night or day for that matter.

The adult attempted to lie in the nest, trying to tug the chicks under its wings (below top). The chicks were not ready to settle down. A few times the adult had to leave the nest when the chicks became too boisterous. It perched on the beam supporting the nest in order to get a few minutes of peace before returning to the nest (below bottom). The chicks became less active a few hours later but even then they still moved around the nest.


By around 0020 hours (25th March), the chicks quietened down a little, to sleep under the wings of the adult. The adult was observed to occasionally heave slightly up and down, as if to accommodate the moving chicks. Throughout the night the sleeping adult made slight movements, rotating around the nest (below).


At 0520 hours the adult suddenly moved out of the nest to perch on the beam. Adult and chicks preened. The adult re-entered the nest a few times before flying off at 0625 hours to look for breakfast. The chicks preened and waited to be fed.

The adult returned within half an hour with a snack, looking like a moth, to feed a hungry chick. It flew off to return within eight minutes to feed the other chick. Four other subsequent feedings took place, each within a few minutes of the other.

Allan Teo & YC Wee
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.

Malayan Whistling Thrush: 1. Nesting observations

posted in: Nesting | 2

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


Allan Teo visited Cameron Highlands, Malaysia on March 2008 and sent in this report on the 24th: “Over the weekend I photographed this rare Malayan Whistling Thrush (Myophonus robinsoni) and its two chicks (above). It makes its nest at the same time very year. This species is listed as Vulnerable and is very difficult to obtain a photo let alone nesting.”

This thrush is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia. It is a rare and internationally vulnerable species and is confined to the Main Range from Cameron Highlands south to Genting Highlands.

The habitat of this thrush is the understorey and floor of the lower and upper montane forests. It forages alone or in pairs among ground litter and around streams. Whatever information on its food has so far been speculative. A few nests have been seen, described as massive cup-shaped structiures constructed of vegetative materials attached to lianas and saplings. The eggs have been described in Wells (2007) but details of incubation, brooding, fledgling, etc. are, so far, unknown.


The nesting in Cameron Highlands at an elevation of about 1,600 metres could reveal a wealth of information. The nest, built inside a factory warehouse at about 5 metres from the ground, is a massive half-cup structure made up of dried plant materials, probably narrow strips of leaves, thin stems, etc. as the outside appears an untidy mass of dangling materials. The nest sits at the T-joint of two narrow wooden beams, one running along the side of a wall and the other across to the other wall. The side of the nest is attached to the wall surface, probably with the help of mud. The presence of mud can be discerned on the nest rim and inner surface.

There are two nestlings, probably around more that a week old (two weeks?) old as their eyes are opened, juvenal feathers are mostly in place and they are active all the time. They are also relatively large, the two nearly filling the nest. The food brought by the parents include small snakes and moths (left).

Allan is planning to video the nesting on a 24-hour basis using infrared lighting.

Allan Teo & YC Wee
April 2008

NOTE: Thanks to Ong Tun Pin, Tan Gim Cheong, R. Subaraj and Bruce Ramsay, the distribution of the Malayan Whistling Thrush has been corrected. The bird is actually endemic to Peninsular Malaysia and does not occur in Sumatra. [4th April]

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.
2. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London.

Black-naped Oriole: Courtship

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 2


The Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) is a common resident of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. However, come winter, the population is increased by the arrival of migratory birds from the north.


During the breeding season, the shrill, flute-like whistles of these birds fill the air as the males defend their territories as well as attract females. There may be occasional aerial chases as the birds zig-zag round trees, sometimes ending in midair grappling.

The arrival of a female bird will be aggressively courted by the males, with high-speed aerial chase through and above trees. The birds may be so close that the male may almost touch the tail of the female.

In the case of the Northern Oriole (Zcterus galbula), courtship display consists of the male bowing in front of the female with wings lowered and fanned tail somewhat cocked upwards. The female may respond by either ignoring the male, singing or chattering. She may even lean forward and quiver her wings and vocalise in response.

Have birders from Malaysia and Singapore published any articles on the courtship behaviour of our local species of oriole? Or made any observations? If so, can you please share?

Dr. Redzlan Abdul Rahman
Raub, Pahang, Malaysia
March 2008

Edinger, B.B. (1988). Extra-pair courtship and copulation attempts in Northern Orioles. The Condor 90:546-54.


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:

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

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

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

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

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

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

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

  5. YC

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

  6. Firdaus Razak

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

  7. Chung Wah

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

  8. Geam Liang

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

  9. Lee Chiu San

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Lee Chiu San

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

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

  11. Geam Liang

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

  12. Lee Chiu San

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

  13. Geam Liang

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

  14. Lee Chiu San

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

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

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

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

  15. Geam Liang

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

  16. David Thackray

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

  17. Emily Koh

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

  18. Emily Koh

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

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

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

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

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


  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

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

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

    Some background of the new Mandai Bird Park project; it will build upon the legacy of the Jurong Bird Park – 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:

    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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