Nictitating membrane

posted in: Morphology-Develop. | 4

In April 2006 Johnny Wee spotted a White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) perching on a branch of a tree, eying a lizard on the ground nearby. He managed to take a few images with his digital camera as the bird launched at the prey. Back at his computer, he processed the images and found a number of them had birds whose eyes were white. Thinking that these were photographic artifacts, he erased them all.

In July 2006 Johnny observed a Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) eying an insect. While intently concentrating on the prey, its eyes turned white and its tail feathers fanned out. This time he did not erase his white-eyed bird images but kept them as comparisons. The eyes returned to normal after feeding.

Two different observations on two different species of birds, both with eyes turning white just before the birds lunged on their preys must mean something.

Birds have three eyelids – one upper, one lower and a nictitating membrane. The third is between the two other eyelids and the cornea and moves sideways. It is used in cleaning and protecting the eye.

It is believed that birds cover their eyes with the nictitating membrane when under water. This has been disputed by some, as the membrane, being translucent and not transparent, would obscure the sight of the bird in its search for food. Others question the necessity of covering the eyes in water, based on our experience of seeing under water.

The nictitating membrane is also believed to comes in useful during flying. The bird cannot afford to close its eyelids often when in the air. Loss of vision, even momentary, caused by closed eyelids can throw the bird off balance.

Ornithologist Geoffrey Davison believes that the whiteness of the eye in the image is due to the nictitating membrane coming across the eye just at the moment the image was taken. This may or may not be related to the bird’s intended movement.

Birders-photographers, please keep a look out for this phenomenon in your images.

Latest: My copy of Handbook of Bird Ornithology (2nd ed.) (2004) by S. Podulka, R.W. Rohrbaugh, Jr. & R. Bonney (eds.), New York: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, arrived today. On page 1.7 it is said that “In raptors and other predatory birds, the nictitating membrane protects the eyes as the bird pursues prey through heavy cover, such as a blackberry thicket.”

Input by YC and Geoffrey Davison, images of Pied Fantail by Johnny Wee.

Thoughts on a starling’s nest

posted in: Nests | 0

On 15th June 2006, Lin Yangchen made this observation: “Although the Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) at Loyang have packed up, the Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensises) are still in business. I joined a pair of them at lunch. One was uttering expletives perched at the top of one of the dead coconut trunks sticking out of the sea while the other was feeding their kids in the cavity just below the top. The bill of the food-collecting parent was smeared with orange bits of leftovers which I couldn’t identify and he/she didn’t bother to wipe his/her beak. The food was transferred down from an opening at the top of the trunk, which means that the kids got rained on quite heavily. In any case the nest seemed too small for even one parent to enter; do the parents go hide somewhere else during a storm? I don’t suppose leaving a nest unprotected during heavy rain would expose it to great risk of predation. But how about hypothermia? Does the glossiness of the species’ plumage indicate the presence of some hydrophobic coating that confers higher water resistance?

“This seemingly hostile environment is, however, immune to land attack. Air strikes are mediated by communal nesting. And imagine yourself as a juvenile preparing for takeoff on your maiden flight. Anything less than Top Gun will be banished forever to the bottom of the sea.”

Input and images by Lin Yangchen.

Little Terns: Courtship and after

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 1

The breeding season of Little Terns (Sterna albifrons) in Singapore starts from May to end in July. The first step involves pairing, after which courtship begins. Typical courtship behaviour involves the male bird bringing fish to his mate. This may continue for some time before the pair actually bonds. After all, the female has to be convinced of the male’s ability to provide for her and her brood during the period of egg incubation and after. Only then will copulation actually takes place.

This involves the female crouching and the male hopping on her, to make cloacal contact. This happens only for a brief period but mating may take place many times a day.

After copulation comes egg laying. The birds choose a piece of bare ground near water to lay the eggs. Once the nestlings fledge, both birds continue to feed them until the fledglings are able to care for themselves.

Meng and Melinda Chan were at the Neo Tiew area last year and brought back these dramatic images to share.

An encounter with a Spotted Wood Owl

posted in: Interspecific, Owls | 1

Ho Shuping wrote: “On 10th July, 2006I heard a commotion outside with the repeated calls of a Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris). I looked up and saw this owl that I thought was a Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo) in a tree in my garden.

“Many birds flew by and perched at a distance before taking off again. Then there was an unusual silence. There were two Oriental Magpie-robins (Copsychus saularis), two pairs of Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier), a pair of Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) and I could also hear Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda) flying by and calling (though I am not sure if that was related to the presence of the owl). The owl sat in the tree (seemingly sleeping, occasionally opening an eye) from when I saw it at 1 pm and the last I saw it at 5.30 pm. It was gone when I went to check at 7.00 pm.

“I saw it again two days later in a neighbour’s coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), being actively mobbed by two pairs of Oriental Magpie-robins.

“Is it a Spotted Wood Owl and is it a common garden resident? The bird is reported to be forest edge dwellers and this is the first time I’ve seen one here. I am also surprised it chose to sit in such an exposed tree.”

Our bird specialist R Subaraj replied: “This large owl is a Spotted Wood Owl, an uncommon resident in Singapore with about 20 or so known pairs, mostly from southern and central Singapore but also from the west and east as well as offshore islands like Ubin, Tekong, Sentosa and St. Johns.

“The owl is a resident of forest edge, woodlands, rural countryside and large wooded parkland and gardens. Birds usually roost in a large dense tree but when disturbed, may occasionally roost for the day in a more open tree. Recently fledged birds also tend to roost less sensibly while seeking out a new territory for themselves. We have a recent photo record of this owl at Chinatown and also an earlier record of it being mobbed. We have also posted an account of a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) being mobbed by House Crows (Corvus splendens).

“Predators like owls, snakes and raptors are often subjected to mobbing by various birds (and other animals) as they try to drive it away from their territory. Even owls that roost in dense vegetation may often be mobbed when accidentally discovered by a foraging party of birds.

“This spectacular bird normally starts calling (growls followed by loud barks) around dusk and departs its roost to feed soon after. I have observed it feeding on bats that hawk insects around a street lamp.”

Thank you Shuping, for this interesting encounter and images.

Greater Flamingoes

posted in: uncategorised | 0

Chan Yoke Meng had the opportunity to observe the small colony of captive Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus rubber), also known as Caribbean Flamingoes, at the Jurong Bird Park between December 2003 and January 2004. He witnessed and recorded on film the hatching of one egg and how the parent birds fed the chick.

There were three nests, each a small mound of earth with a shallow depression at the top. On each of the nests was a single egg. The egg in one nest hatched on 1st January 2004 giving a healthy chick. The second nest gave a dead chick. The egg in the third nest failed to hatch.

The successfully hatched chick was totally covered with white down feathers. During the first few days the chick was snugly tucked under the wing of the parent bird. With its head poking out of the wing, the chick was fed with a milky liquid secreted from the upper digestive track of the parent. The parent held its curved bill over the chick’s straight bill and dripped the secretion down. Flamingo chicks are usually fed by their parents until the former are quite old, even after their bill is completely curved and capable of filter feeding.

Thanks Meng for sharing your observations and images. Obviously the chick did not approve of your presence.

Long-tailed Parakeet and yellow simpoh

posted in: Feeding-plants | 5

The yellow simpoh (Dillenia suffruticosa) is a common shrub of rural areas and secondary growths. The large leaves were once used to wrap food in wet markets. They are still being used to wrap tempeh, the slightly fermented soya bean cake used in local cooking.

The plant flowers throughout the year, putting forth its large and attractive yellow flowers found on long flowering stalks. Along each stalk usually only one flowering bud bursts open during the early hours of the morning. It becomes fully opened just before sunrise. Lasting only a day, the flower then sheds its petals by evening and the fleshy sepals fold back on the developing fruit. Along any flowering branch there would be flower buds and developing fruits that look like flower buds, usually larger.

When the fruit is matured, the fleshy sepals surrounding it unfolds, and the fruit itself splits opens into a number of parts. The separate pink rays bordered by white is filled with pulpy scarlet seeds. This colourful structure may mislead some to think that it is the flowers. But it is definitely the fruit. The image above shows the ripe fruit (right) minus the seeds, which are a favourite with birds. The four bud-like structures are the developing fruits looking like flower buds.

In April 2006 Chan Yoke Meng photographed a Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda) eating what looked like a flower bud (top and above right). The bud defied identification until Dr Shawn Lum suggested that it could be a flowering bud of a yellow simpoh. Going back to his collection of shots that were taken at Turut Track, Meng helped solved the problem when he sent one clearly showing a developing fruit (above, left) being chewed by the parakeet. Obviously the bird eats the flower buds as well as the young fruits. Can it be that it is unable to differentiate the two that are found along the same flowering branch?

Images by Chan Yoke Meng except that of fruits by YC. Thanks to Shawn Lum, KF Yap and Angie Ng for assisting in ID.

Practitioners of decoy

posted in: Species | 1

Recent nesting site discovery of the Blue-Winged Pitta (Pitta Moluccensis) in Ulu Paip, Kedah, puts it to be the third known location of breeding pittas in Malaysia – the other being, Langkawi Island and Taman Negara.

A 40 year old, relative to the fruit plantation owner remarked those colourful birds have been around since her childhood days! There had been previous nesting sites in different orchards but the families had in the past dismissed them as mere birds left to breed as nature would have it while their focus were purely on fruit harvests (left).

My first encounter with breeding adults was a beginner lesson taught by the birds. They are fast, alert, intelligent, highly cautious and great practitioners of decoy.

I was soon to discover that pittas loved a game of’ ‘hide and seek’. The game is over if one gets spotted first. That meant the bird would be leading me on, perched and teased only to fly off to another branch. When my approach got too close to be comfortable, the bird would disappear for good leaving the exasperated pursuer in despair.

I had to drum up ‘Sun Tzu’s strategy and be prepared if I were to have any opportunity to be closed enough to take some documentary shots, without stressing the Blue-Winged Pittas.

Adorned with camouflaged drapes, the vehicle was sent into hiding and I took to my feet with my new companion, DG Scope and approached stealthily from the rear towards a prospective pitta site.

There was an aura of total quiet as I led the way with my scope. We plodded along the narrow tarmac, running parallel to the orchard of durians while I looked through my 8×42 binoculars for any blue-white flying object.

I felt a pair of eyes was quietly watching me and it was coming….coming from a rambutan fruit tree.

A Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) decided to fly across the road and perched on the same tree.

It was as though to say, “Hi birder count me in too!”

Suddenly, silence was broken by a loud, continuous squawking of a bird.

“I cannot recognize that bird call.” I said to myself hugging on to my five kilos something DG Scope.

My ears followed the distressed signal chased by my binoculars which finally caught up with an image of a startled blue-winged, red bellied, no tail bird having a ‘stand- off’ with the drongo.

The drongo has blown the bird’s cover. It’s the pitta!

I froze in surprise while the bird continued screeching unceasingly. It was almost like a whole minute before the defeated drongo took to a 100 metre flight deep into the orchard, leaving the screaming Pitta behind who forgot my presence.

As though harassment wasn’t sufficiently satisfied, the pitta suddenly flew out and headed towards the same tree as the drongo. At a distance, I could see the silhouette of a Pitta confronting and scolding the intruder perching on the same branch.

I had to be quick if I am to get this interesting shot. Before any focus on the bird could be had, the Pitta went into a semi-concealed position.

‘Where is the bird now?’ I questioned my scope still trying to look for that bird through my x50 eye piece.

I raised my binoculars to the direction of the scream and saw only a flash of red belly and something brown behind a vertical obstructed branch. I reviewed my position of strategy and decided I would remain hidden and stand behind the tree to watch any change of pitta’s position.

Unfortunately, no full views were to be had for a scope shot as the bird had gone into total concealed position.

The drongo, my missing piece of jig-saw puzzle, finally got the message and flew out of sight. The pitta continued to wallow screams for another one minute or so despite the ‘Black Knight’ having flown. The pitta waited a final half-minute more and finally disappeared.

Well, it is one of those days. You win some, you lose some.

Heading out of the durian orchard rather reluctantly with recharged birding luck, another Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) suddenly flew into view. It flew into a fruit tree branch previously perched by the intruding Greater racket-tailed Drongo.

I was soon to find out why…

I hastily headed for a low canopy tree and took cover. I held my breath and froze in between. Binoculars 8×42 were used at an approximate distance of 35 feet away. These were the following observations.

The pitta did some series of ‘hop and skip’ on the spot while perching under the tree canopy and shunting occasionally in different directions.

The turning of it’s head from right to left with a visual field of 180 degrees and vice versa was done repeatedly while checking consistently for intruders. This behavior appeared to be the main feature of this species in breeding mode.

There were moments when the pitta paused and remained still as if to listen. The elusive Pitta has an acute sense of hearing and indeed the ability to detect intruders a great distance away. The game is over if the intruder is first sighted by the bird that in turn, sends the intruder on a wild goose chase.

However, having said that, the orchard owner did comment the birds were more relaxed when he or regular fruit pickers were around. The sound of motorbikes and passing cars were also not much of an acute deterrent.

The orchard owner has been keeping watch dogs for years since taken ownership of the property. They were no deterrent to these breeding pittas.


The Blue-winged Pitta hopped fly from one tree branch to another. In taking extra precaution, the bird flew and perched on a concrete post further away. It repeated the usual breeding behavior before a quick dash flight over the fence and disappeared into low undergrowth.

This observation became my very first of a breeding Pitta, unaware it was flying into a nest that was discovered two weeks later. These birds are known to be usually ground nesters (right top).

Parental behavior was observed a week after four chicks hatched. They were observed under camouflaged drapes no less than 30 feet away at half-hour intervals on 3 occasions: morning, afternoon and evening over different days. Only one opportunity attempt was made to take a couple of hand held documentary, no flash shots in the morning when parent flew off after chick feeding (right bottom).

Parenting behavior of pittas is an observation that arouses human compassion. The amount of stress the parents took on, the hard work of sourcing food and feeding four chicks every 10-12 minutes continuously, the team work of sharing, caring for their young and protecting against intruders, call for an immeasurable respect for this avian family.


As ground nesters, the chicks are more prone to predators like stray animals, reptiles, insects and tendency to succumb to human destructive and predative habits. As such, more surveillance is required of such species specially designed to be natural, excellent practitioners of vigilance and decoy (left top).

Earthworms were the main diet for one week old chicks and abundantly available in the fertile fruit orchards (left middle). It was also observed that initial trips to source earthworms were made further away from the nesting site. Towards the end of fledging period, the exhausted parents, having lost considerable weight, were seen with pickings from near (left bottom).

It was also observed that while a parent was foraging, the other vigilant parent was never far away from the nest and used the fruit tree canopy for sentry duties. Any bird or stranger that approached too close fro comfort, a series of alarm calls, ‘skyeew’ would ring out to ward off intruders and to warn his mate to caution it’s approach.

Birders or photographers finding themselves under such situation would at best concede defeat and back-off, or to leave the place altogether out of the bird’s sight to allow feeding to resume. Otherwise, it was noted the parent with beakful of worms, would fly off in opposite direction to the nesting site to wait it out patiently. It will only to return on a ‘2 step’ approach when all clear.

If not, chicks would be left to starve to death. Such is the sensitivity of this intelligent species in practicing decoy from predation of their nests.

Having witnessed the extreme fragility and harsh environment upon which Blue-winged Pittas choose to breed, in my personal opinion, this is one species that the best and kindest thing for humans when nestlings are found if seen before, is to keep our distance and to leave parental birds to get on with their business of fledging their chicks and let nature takes it’s own course.

It is unfortunate I am not able to provide the first initial week’s documentary account and post fledgling behavior of the adults. I decided to abandon observations under difficult circumstance of an increasing crown that descended upon the orchard.

The birds’ welfare had to come first.

This article is made possible with kind approval from the orchard owner, first initiated when the first pitta’s discovery was made.


What species of fish does the Little Tern take?

Birdwatchers are happy to just report that such and such a species of birds had been seen fishing. They are generally not interested in what species the birds take. You cannot blame them. After all birders are not biologists. And just catching a glimpse of a bird swooping down on a fish with the help of a pair of binoculars will not allow for the fish to be identified to specific or even generic level.

Not now. A growing band of bird photographers that has been roaming our countryside has brought back excellent images of birds fishing that allow for the fish to be identified.

In this posting we are highlighting the species of fish that the Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) takes from the freshwater reservoir in Kranji. This is only possible through the excellent photography of Chan Yoke Meng. Three species of freshwater fish have been identified through the courtesy of Dr Khoo Hong Woo, formerly with the then Department of Zoology, National University of Singapore.

The giant snakehead or toman (Channa micropeltes), one of the largest of the world’s snakeheads, is cultured in our reservoirs and fish ponds as a food fish. The fish, held firmly between the beak of the juvenile shown in the image above is actually a young giant snakehead. These young fish gather in small, tight shoal near their parents and are thus easily predated by the Little Terns.

The glass fish (Chanda spp.) are easily identified as the body is translucent. Found in brackish and saline water near the coast, several species are also found in freshwater. They have been known to occur in our reservoirs, probably deliberately introduced. These are a favourite aquarium fish and some are artificially coloured through the injection of dyes.

The common tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus, previously called Tilapia mossambicus) is not native to this region. Introduced as an aquaculture fish, it is popularly served in restaurants. This tilapia is common in our reservoirs. The fish taken by the Little Tern in the picture is a juvenile common tilapia.

Images of Little Tern with giant snakehead (top), glass fish (middle) and tilapia (bottom) by Chan Yoke Meng. Fish identification by Khoo Hong Woo.

Status of the white-eyes in Singapore

posted in: Species | 3

Following the posting of the nesting of the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) by K.C. Tsang recently, Yong Ding Li sent in this report: “…appears that the Oriental White-eyes are fairly well established in Singapore in the form of feral populations and nowadays can be found in many housing estates. Might be wise to be very careful as far as identifying zosterops are concerned as at least four species of white-eyes have occurred in Singapore in a feral state, including Japanese White-eye (Z. japonicus), Chestnut-flanked White-eye (Z. erythropleurus), Mountain White-eye (Z. montanus) and Everett’s White-eye (Z. everetti) and not assume them all to be mere orientals.”

Our bird specialist R. Subaraj has this to say on the status of the Oriental White-eye: “The record by KC is a good confirmation of nesting but there have been records of immature birds being attended to by parents. The species has been feral and widespread in certain parts of Singapore, including Holland Woods, Ulu Pandan, Bukit Batok, Toh Tuck, etc. for more than a decade now.

“The native population of the Oriental White-eye died out long before the 1970s – that is just a starting date for modern records. The current population is believed to have started from escape birds (popular cage bird), both accidentally or deliberately freed. They have been around for at least 20 years and the numbers have been increasing without a confirmed observation of the actual nesting. However, the status of this species was accepted in the late 1990s to early 2000s as CI or common introduction, not a mere escapee!

“The current nesting record changed nothing in terms of the species
status. It will still remain a common introduction like Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus), House Crow (Corvus splendens), Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) and White-crested Laughingthrushe (Garrulax leucolophus). They all originated from escapees/releases and will never become Residents (R) which is reserved for true native inhabitants of Singapore and natural colonists from elsewhere who have established themselves here, like the Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) on Pulau Ubin for example.

“The term feral is preferably reserved for established introduced populations while the occasional sighting of a different species of white-eyes is best described as escapees. With this in mind, only the Japanese White-eyes (as well as Oriental) are fairly common established feral species and I have them on my checklist as Common Introduction (CI). Populations of Japanese are found at sites like Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill, Kent Ridge Park and NUS. Other species of white-eyes are mere escapees including Chestnut-flanked, Mountain(?) and Mangrove White-eye (Zosterops chloris).

Thank you Ding Li and Subaraj for your input. Image by YC.

Malaysian Plover: The cryptic chicks

posted in: Nesting, Waders | 0

The Malaysian Plovers (Charadrius peronii) nest along the open shore just above the high water mark. The nest is just a scrape on the ground and there is no vegetation to offer any protection. So how does it avoid detection from potential predators? Camouflage is the answer!

The brown, grey, blank and white plumage blends perfectly with the surroundings. The nest is not lined with any insulating plant material as this would make it conspicuous. Similarly the eggs are perfectly camouflaged. There is a long incubation period of up to 30 days during which the parent birds need be vigilant against egg poachers. However, this long period ensures that the chicks hatch with their eyes opened, covered with downy feathers and capable of independent movement within a few hours of hatching.

Such chicks do not need to be constantly brooded in the nest as they are able to maintain their body temperature, though not completely. Thus they initially need to get warm under the parent’s wings.

As seen above, the two days old chick is still learning how to walk properly, sometimes toppling over while in a hurry trying to get to the female parent.

Finally able to stand tall and proud.

The account on the nesting behaviour has already been posted.

Input and images by Philip Tang.

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

Leave a Reply to Emily Koh Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.