Sleeping nocturnal beauties

posted in: Owls, Roosting | 3

There are 23 SE Asian species of typical owls that befit the description of nocturnal birds with rounded heads, large forward-facing eyes circumvented by feathered facial discs. Their plumage mostly brown and cryptically patterned, they hunt by night and roost by day.

While their roosting hide-outs are difficult to find, bird watchers at times when lady luck visits, do accidentally run into them.

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Thus, finding a night bird in daylight hours is not only an infrequent encounter, the ability to digiscope them with no flash photography allows the bird to continue sleep without rudely being awakened. Such images are valued and carry good credits. That’s my opinion anyway and for which I am generous to show in image but not to be asked at source.

The Brown Boobook (Ninox scutulata) previously known as Brown Hawk Owl, decided to give me that privilege in one of my birding trips.

I was unable to tell the sex of owls but this 30cm bird suddenly flew in and perched on a low tree canopy. At 10 feet away, the Brown Boobook was head gyrating and sizing me up with its golden-yellow eyes (above).

“Oh.. I don’t know this bird and it is a lifer to me.”

Armed with birding luck which seems remain in eternity with me, the second bird showed up. As though not enough…. the third flew in and perched beside each other.

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Soon, I was digiscoping three sleepy maids in a row (above).

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Then…. beyond the wildest dreams of any birder who would dare ask for the fourth, this cute ‘Johnny 4’ showed up to make a foursome (right)!

What can I say more but sighting Pittas and Trogons that showed in twos and threes paled in comparison with encounter of this fourth kind.
I remembered being told that some birds sleep with their eyes opened. Now I am able to bring those bird eyes closer to readers to see for themselves if it is true.

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The white covering over their eyes are called nictitating membranes. They help to protect the eyes and from drying out while birds sleep. At the same time, by keeping an opening eye or eyes opened, birds remain watchful for predators in their sleep.

To sleep-wink at readers, let me introduce Natasha – the juvenile Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo) as the closing sleeping bird image that looks like a Russian doll (left).

Good night baby!

DAISY O’NEILL, AVIAN WRITER, PENANG, MALAYSIA.

Birds mobbing snakes

posted in: Interspecific | 6

Birders are familiar with the mobbing behaviour of birds, especially when it is directed at raptors and owls (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). However, they are less familiar with birds mobbing non-avian predators.

There are enough reports in the avian literature to show that this is not an uncommon phenomenon. One reason for this lack of awareness can be because the snake being mobbed would most probably be among the vegetation and not easily visible. And birders may mistake the ruckus as mobbing of a raptor. The other reason would be the obvious one, that local birders are unaware that mobbing can extend to predators other than birds.

With the present posting, it is hoped that birders will be more aware of this phenomenon and be more vigilant when in the field.

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On October 2006 KC Tsang was observing an Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) stalking a Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja). Just when the snake was about to strike, Ping, who is Amy Tsang’s cousin, saved the bird by grabbing it (above right). A close up image of the snale is shown on the left and KC has specifically pointed out that the person handling the Oriental Whip Snake is not Ping, considering the hairy nature of the arm.

Yes, snakes commonly catch birds, their fledglings and their eggs but there have been few, if any, documentation of such activities. And it would be natural for the parent birds to raise an alarm when a snake is about to raid their nest.

But mobbing by a number of species and working together?

Some two years ago, Amy and KC Tsang saw a huge Red-tailed Ratsnake (Gonyosoma oxycephalum) being mobbed by birds in the Central Catchment area (left). (These snakes can grow up to 240 cm in length.) The birds involved in the mobbing included Striped Tit Babblers (Macronous gularis), two Greater Racket-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradisus), bulbuls and some others which KC was not able to identify. The forest was just alive with screaming birds, hopping from branch to branch just out of reach of the snake. Squirrels were also there chattering away.

Another incident that KC encountered was with an Oriental Whip Snake, also a fairly big one, gliding from branch to branch that had attracted the attention of the forest birds.

Matheus et al. (1996) reported seeing a snake grabbing the fledging of a pair of adult Golden-hooded Tanagers (Tangara larvata) in Eucador. The alarm calls the parent birds made attracted the attention of other bird species that flew in to mob and dive-attack the snake. Although the snake swallowed the fledgling within 5 minutes, the mobbing continued for half an hour. A total of 14 bird species joined in the mobbing, scolding and attacking the snake.

Input by KC Tsang, images by KC except the hairy arm by ?YC.

Reference:
Matheus, J.C., Wittmann, U., Olaf, J., Leutfeld, M., & Schuchmann, K-L. (1996). Reactions of birds to nestling predation by a snake. Ornithologia Neotropical 7:163-4.

Little Heron chick: 2. Feeding

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The Little Heron (Butorides striatus) chick, rescued on 2nd November 2007 has grown fast.

It outgrew the cardboard box and is fast outgrowing the larger metal container it was transferred to. I have to cover the top, least it climb out and scamper away. Previously, it just perched along the edge of the container and remained there, not daring to jump down (left).

On 7th November, five days after beinging it home, I got the chick to stand on a weighing scale that was placed about a metre from the ground. The scale showed 150 g whereas it was only 100 g when first rescued, four days before. I left the scene to fetch my camera. When I returned, it had jumped more than a metre down and wandered off the garden. Sneaking through the chain-linked fence, it nearly fell into the drain outside. I managed to catch it without falling into the drain myself and kept it restrained inside the metal container.

The bird was about 20 cm tall when fully stretched.

In the previous appeal for help, Victor Lee consulted Dr Gloria Chay, a vet who has experience in bird rehabiitation, and sent in the following: “Don’t bath birds at this stage as they can loose too much body heat. In fact, if the weather is cool, it may be necessary to use a heat lamp for them at night.

“…Gloria says that you need to supplement with Vitamin E as this is found in the live food they get in the wild. Unless you are able to get live fish for this chick. Otherwise, try using multi vitamins for birds that you can get at pet stores. If you are feeding this chick fish slices only, you will also need to give it calcium supplements once a week or so. If you are using whole fishes, like ikan kuning, etc., then this is not required.”

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Originally fed with small pieces of fish fillet without bones (above), I have started feeding it with strips of ikan kuning or yellowstrip scad (Selaroides leptolepis), which is about 10 cm long. Each fish was cut into four longitudinal pieces, with the backbones and head removed. All fins were similarly removed initially but later left in place. When there was a lateral fin still attached, the bird gave out a soft cry when swallowing the piece. But it managed.

At each feeding, twice or three times a day, it took three to four pieces.

When it was bigger (nine days after bringing it home), I left the fish head on but still removed the backbones. The bird had difficulty swallowing pieces until it learnt to swallow it head first.

I am aware that herons can handle bones. It has an efficient digestive system, incapable of digesting only insects’ exoskeletons, birds’ feathers and mammals’ furs. These have to be regurgitated in the form of pellets.

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The bird initially passed out only a white liquid, consisting of uric acid. This is the bird’s urine, a product of metabolism. When I started feeding it fish with bones, I found a small white piece of pellet at the bottom of the container. The next day there was another, slighter bigger pellet. Can these be regurgitated pellets, a consequence of eating the pieces of fish with side bones and fins? I did not witness the actual casting of these pellets but the fact that they were clean and dry, not mixed with uric acid, makes this a possibility.

Later, I found bigger lumps of brownish matters, clean of uric acid. Subsequent to this the white uric acid passed out began to include lumps of similar brown matters, probably products of the digestive system. No more clean, white pellets were than found.

The image above shows a collection of white, possibly regurgitated pellets and brown pieces that could be regurgitated (scale: mm).

The bird now weighs 200 g (11th November), double its initial weight. It has been transferred to a larger cage. It now exercises its wings, no doube preparing for the time when it can fly.

YC Wee, Dr Gloria Chay & Victor Lee
Singapore
November 2007
(Images by YC Wee)

Reference:
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.

Injured Purple Heron

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On two separate occasions, Dr Chua Ee Kiam encountered an injured Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve:

“I managed some shots of this Purple Heron on two occasions and I thought that something had pierced its lower jaw until a frontal shot of it opening its mouth revealed that its lower jaw was torn (pierced and torn by a wriggling catfish’s spines?) and a flap of tissue dangled from its lower jaw. This is like a patient having its trachea cut to allow him to breathe.”

Birds that feed on fish like Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis), Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis) and Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) need to knock off the fish and then position it in such a way that it can be swallowed head first. This will ensure that the spines will not damage the birds’ throat.

In the case of this Purple Heron, it is possible that it was trying to swallow a catfish, as suggested by Ee Kiam. The strong, sometimes serrated dorsal and pectoral spines can tear a bird’s throat as seen here if, not handled correctly.

Kelvin P K Lim of the Raffles Museum of Biodivertsity Research, National University of Singapore has this to say: “I think that heron must’ve been really careless to have been damaged this way. I’ve seen pictures and footage of herons eating large catfish, and it must be a very common food item for them. However, this is the first time I’ve seen a picture of a heron with a torn throat. Catfish spines are really strong and thick and I believe they can cause that kind of damage, but I really cannot confirm if the bird in the picture was hurt by a catfish.”

Input and images by Dr Chua Ee Kiam, additional input by Kelvin P K Lim.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: Sighting of Common Redshank

posted in: Migration-Migrants | 1

On 15th October 2007, KC Tsang reported: “This morning was at Sungei Bulog Wetland Reserve, and the place was quite busy with lots of waders. When they fly low over you the noise made by the flapping wings was quite impressive.

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“So took quite a number of shots, and later downloaded the pictures into my computer. On examining the pictures, I found a number of Common Redshanks (Tringa totanus) with Green over Orange Flags on their right legs, denoting that they were tagged in the North Yellow Sea, China area (above).

“So is there any one out there able to share with us about the migratory routes of these bird. So the birds tagged in Singapore could thus be found in China too?

Ong Tun Pin, a birder interested in shore birds, commented: “If this is indeed green/orange, then it should be from Dandong-Tangshan, China (the northern part of the yellow Sea) – Yalu Jiang…”

Checking with the various overseas groups involved in tagging shorebirds revealed that the flag was actually green over white, which is coded for Singapore. The white has been stained with mud, giving the appearance of orange. What this means is that the birds were tagged in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. This has further been confirmed by Jamers Gan of the Sungei Buloh Wetlend Rerserve in Singapore. The image below shows the flag clearly, showing green over white.

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So the excitement was short-lived, but this brings to the forefront the exciting bird tagging exercise that has been going on in Singapore. Hundreds of birds have been tagged, starting from 2000 and a high percentage subsequently recaptured, proving that they have returned after a short absence. Unfortunately, it is doubtful if any had been captured overseas, so we are not able to have proof of their migratory flight.

The Common Redshank is a common winter visitor and passage migrant. The bird breeds in the Himalayas and Tibet and winters in the Malay Peninsular, Singapore, Sumatra, N Natuna Island, Java and Bawean Island. The species breeds extensively across Europe to East Siberia and winters in tropical Africa, the India subcontinent, Sri Lanka, South China, Myanmar, the Greater Sundas and Bali.

KC Tsang, Ong Tun Pin & James Gan
Singapore
November 2007

References:
1. Gan, James (2007). Bird ringing in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in 2006. Wetlands 14(1):5-8.
2. Wang, L.K. & Hails, C. J. (2007). An annotated checklist of the birds of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. Suppl. 15:1-179.

Little Heron chick: 1. Rescue and after

posted in: Heron-Egret-Bittern, Rescue | 2

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On the evening of 2nd November 2007, Geraldine approached Morten Strange at the Botanic Garden Shop in the Visitors Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens and informed that she and her husband Vincent had picked up a baby bird from the grounds of the Bukit Timah campus. As I was then nearby, I became the “expert” and ended up with the rescued chick.

I placed the chick inside a cardboard box and took it home (above). Not having any prior experience raising rescued chicks, I was naturally apprehensive of the new-found responsibility.

It was a heron, subsequently identified as Little Heron (Butorides striatus).

At home, I took out the piece of frozen fish I had in the refrigerator to defrost. The fillet was cut into small pieces and fed to the chick.

The bird was initially aggressive when I tried to feed it. It scolded me loudly – keek-keek-keek – and at the same time lunged at my hand with its long, sharp bill. Hunger must have got the better of it as it subsequently accepted a piece offered at the end of a pair of chopsticks. After a short interval I succeeded in feeding it two more pieces.

By nightfall it got used to me and stopped scolding and trying to peck my hand. It slept in the cardboard box, the top covered with newspapers.

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The next morning I put it on a weighing machine – 100 g. It was a struggle to feed it as it again cried out loudly and lunged at my hand whenever it was offered fish. This time the gape looked wider than the night before and more intimidating. But ultimately it took a few pieces of fish. It was fed another two times that day, at times it even picked up the pieces from the ground. When I took it out of the box, it tried to hide behind the nearby flower pots. Chasing it out, I blocked its path with the box and it remained in a corner, staying still all the time, to eventually accepting a few more pieces of fish (above).

On the second morning the chick grew by 20% in weight to 120g. It had a hearty appetite, still feeding on fish. It refused earthworms though. It got more restless, climbing up from its confined space, this time a larger metal pot-holder.

It is definitely growing but the flight feathers have yet to develop, so it is not capable of flying, only walking. The image below shows the wing feathers that have yet to fully emerged from their sheaths (arrow). At the same time its numerous natal down – the soft down feathers covering the chick at around the time of hatching (below, arrow at head) – was shedding.

Herons lay a clutch of 3-7 eggs. Chicks are hatched naked and blind. They stay in the nest from 25 days among the smaller species to 13 weeks among the larger ones. Unfortunately I am not able to locate any nesting details on Little Heron. The chicks of herons are reported to wander off from the nest about half way through their growing period.

So this rescued chick could have wandered off and got lost. Or pushed off the nest by the more aggressive siblings. Whatever the cause, I can only speculate.

The chicks in a brood are reported to be intensely competitive for the food the parents bring. As egg hatching is asynchronous, the earlier-hatched are generally larger and will grab most of the food. The survival of the smaller chicks is often questionable. Also, there is widespread sibilicidal aggression among the chicks.

Stay tuned to learn what happen next!

In the meantime, if anyone has experience in raising heron chicks, please come forward. I keep the chick confined inside a container with the top covered as it can climb out and wander off and the neighbour’s cat may find it tempting. At the same time it is growing bigger and need to exercise.

YC Wee
Singapore
November 2007

References:.
1. Clark, G. A. Jr. (2004). [‘Form and function: The external bird.’]. Pp. 3.1-3.70 in Podulka, S., Rohrbaugh, R.W. Jr & Bonney, R. (eds.) Handbook of bird biology. Ithaca, NY: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
2. 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.

Heliconias and sunbirds

posted in: Feeding strategy, Feeding-plants, Sunbirds | 10

Heliconias (Heliconia spp.) are native to Central and South America and some islands of the South Pacific. Because they bear large, colorful and conspicuous flowering branches in various sizes, shapes and designs, they are favourite garden plants throughout the tropics and subtropics. They grow fast and within months they flower. Heliconias are excellent as border plants, for landscaping or even when grown in large containers.

The flowering branch or inflorescence is either erect or pendent and is the most conspicuous feature of the plant. Borne along the inflorescence are many colourful bracts – red, pink, orange, yellow or even green. Found within these bracts are the flowers.

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In their native countries, hummingbirds are the main pollinators of the flowers in the New World tropics, replaced by bats in the Old World tropics. The length and curvature of the hummingbird’s bill match the length of the flowering tube and this helps in pollination.

However, outside the neotropical regions where no hummingbirds are found, sunbirds have exploited this feeding niche and regularly visit heliconia flowers. The images on the left show the Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) (top) and Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) (bottom) collecting nectar from heliconia flowers. The bills of these sunbirds are different from those of hummingbirds and although they benefit from the nectar, in most cases do not help in pollinating the flowers.

In fact, if you want to attract sunbirds to your garden, a sure way is to grow heliconias.

As bats pollinate these flowers in the Old World tropics, it would be interesting to check out the situation locally. This is a challenge thrown to the local bat enthusiasts.

The flowers last only a day but as there are many flowers per bract and many bracts per inflorescence, the flowering period is extended for weeks or even months.

One of the best place to view sunbirds visiting heliconia flowers is the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Birding tourists make it a point to spend a few hours there to birdwatch – and to check out the heliconias and sunbirds .

YC Wee
Singapore
November 2007
(Images of sunbirds visiting the flowers by Johnny Wee)

Caterpillars: Food for birds

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates | 7

collared k'fisher, hawkmoth cat, sbg 0406 - 2

Birds love caterpillars. They are full of goodies and excellent growth food for their chicks. A recent documentation showed the food brought to chicks of the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) to be mostly caterpillars.

Large, juicy caterpillars are eaten after their gut contents are removed, as seen in the Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) taking the caterpillar of the Privet Hawk Moth (Psilogramma menephron) (above).

The Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus) was seen taking a large hairy caterpillar between its beak, swinging it vigorously to stun it. The entire length of the caterpillar was then passed back and forth between the bill of the bird to remove the stomach contents.

Even caterpillars safely enclosed within a silky cocoon are sometimes not safe from hungry birds, see the post on the Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) and the moth’s cocoon.

We even have a post of the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) catching the caterpillar of the Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas).

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Obviously many caterpillars end up as food for birds. Yet many others escape detection, for how else do we explain the presence of so many butterflies and moths around, in terms of species number and number of individuals of each species.

The survival strategies of caterpillars include cryptic colouration, developing hairs (above 1, 3), camouflage, being distasteful through bright colouration (above 3, 6), appearing larger and fiercer than what they really are (above 2), retractable feelers (above 5), looking like a bird’s dropping (above 4), etc.

Input and images by YC.

Trapping birds with birdlime

posted in: Illegal-Irresponsible | 3

Trapping birds using birdlime is a worldwide problem. Birdlime is a sticky substance made from plant materials. Different countries use different materials and methods of preparation.

The birdlime is smeared along a branch that is then placed in a suitable location with a decoy bird. The decoy is usually left tied nearby and its cries will attract nearby birds. Once a bird perches on the branch it gets stuck and as it struggles to get free, gets further entangled in the gummy substance. The trapper returns to claim his prize, either as food or to be sold to the cage bird trade.

In many western countries this method of trapping is illegal. Not so in many Asian countries.

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Mandy Andrea of the Indonesian Parrot Project has this to say: “Yes, it is used because it is cheap. Following are photos we took of this practice. The glue (resin) that this farmer uses is readily available from a fairly common tree.

“He brings his lure bird that he keeps in this small cage (left).

“The lure bird is chained to the branch (below left). The resin is applied to the rest of the branch. What usually happens is the trappers will then return to work in the fields, and come back later. The lure bird attracts a variety of birds, not just his own species.

“He decides he doesn’t like the location. He picks up the branch, slings it over his shoulder, as he walks away, the lure bird dangling and swinging from its ankle chain (below right).

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“In this kind of trapping, the wild birds land on the branch, their feet get stuck. They struggle and fall this way and that. When the trapper returns later, the trapped bird is stuck to the branch on many different parts of its body, and they are usually flopped over from the branch in an exhausted daze.”

Check out this link on birdliming and sign the on-line petition against such indiscriminate use of birdlime to trap birds HERE. This petition is against such a practice that is going to be legalised by the government of Catalonia, an Autonomous Community within Spain.

This method of trapping will be used to indiscriminately trap thousands of migrating thrush coming from northern Europe. The birds will be lured by “electronic appeals” meaning recorded birdcalls that attract protected as well as non-protected species.

This is also a problem in Southeast Asia.

Input by Mandy Andrea and KC Tsang, images by Mandy.

A “Japy-Romano” avian bath

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 1

In the northern Yamanouchi prefecture of Japan, Japanese macaques are known to winter dip in hot springs near Nagano. They were first discovered in the 1960’s and soon these species of macaques (Macaca fuscata) became famously known as the ‘Japanese Snow Monkeys’.

During ancient Roman times, Roman baths were built to placate the pleasures of Roman lifestyle. The evidence in archaeological digs discovered in Europe to lands end wherever Roman conquests were reached can still be seen today.

Soaking oneself in hot springs and baths is luxuriously soothing and therapeutic to one’s mind and body. It leaves a person feeling relaxed and in a state of euphoria.

Perhaps… the Japanese Snow Monkeys too felt no exception judging from their mood and expression on their faces, as they soaked in those healing, mineral hot springs ignoring the free fall of snow flakes from the wintery skies.

Do birds indulge in this art of bathing?

Several species of barbets seemed to have generously given me special privileges to share some of their private moments in their everyday lives. They have allowed me to observe them at close quarters.

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Here in a tropical, warm forest of Malaysia, is our unbashful feathered friend, Lucinko, the Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) demonstrating a birding bath that took 9 mins.

Lucinko was seen flying onto a perch of an old stump of a tree branch about 15 feet off the ground. It had rained heavily the night before and a pool of rain water had accumulated overnight in a deep, hollow cavity at the fork of the old tree stump.

She proceeded to inspect her new found bathing spot for approval.

“This tree spa sure looks good!” exclaimed Lucinko (above).

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With delight and with no hesitation, she slipped in modestly for a dip and a good soak. Her plumage was green like the colour of imperial jade and her head feathers looked like she had white hair nettings to her dark brown feathered head (right).

When Lucinko turned round and saw me ‘capturing’ her on a frontal shot, she moved further back to partially conceal her modesty. Her upper and lower pink bills peaked like Mt. Fujiyama and her dark brown eyes like buttons, sparkled with delight (below).

This episode of Lucinko’s bathing reminded me of my first amusing encounter in a ‘Minshuku’ – a Japanese home stay, government regulated programme in the 1980’s, where I first visited while pursuing the interests of Japanese lifestyle, culture and their arts.

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I was shown the family bathroom. It was pretty sparse and a large, squarish, stainless steel, aluminium kind of opened top tank and filled with warm water. It was staring at me. The size of the metallic bathtub was large enough to drown a 5 year old child in it but a fat scuba diver would definitely be stuck, breaking the law of water displacement and flooding the minshuku.

One reads of the common practice of bathing in a Japanese bathtub.

Here I was globetrotting and finally starring at one. In one corner of the small bathroom, a low and lonely, wooden stool stood waiting my service. The Mamasan-lady of the house was explicit that I do not get into the bathtub.

I had to solve a Japanese bath riddle.

How do a non-Japanese, two legged bird take a Japanese bath with just two basic Japanese elements in a Japanese home in the ancient city of Kyoto in April?

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A lot of creativity needed. It might be refreshing for readers to imagine oneself in such a situation and have a hilarious laugh over it.

“Brr…it’s getting cold” shuddered the bird and decided to crawl out of the cavity. Drenched, she proceeded to clean her armpits, preened her rear feathers and gave a hearty wriggly shake (above and below).

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Lucinko then stepped out of her cool spring, revealing her yellow feet matching with her yellow orbital eye skin (below).

This scenario reminded me of the 1960’s Chinese blockbuster, epic movie, ‘Empress Wu Ti Xian’.

The story line tells of a favourite concubine of a Chinese Emperor who eventually brought the country to grief by the Emperor’s negligence of court duties in hot pursuit of his insatiable indulgence in her beauty.

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The bathing scene of the Empress was the favourite and famous scene which drew ‘full-house’ in Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers (the equivalent of MGM in the west) movie cinemas throughout Malaysia.

The scene opened with the Empress being prepared for a spa bath. It was revealing enough to get the audience to sit up peering and peering through a semi-transparent white silk curtain.

The Emperor eventually showed up and the seductive Empress knowingly requested ‘His Highness’ to approach her with her bath robe.

“Kor lai…..” (Come here)…….murmured the Empress.

The Chinese Emperor was seen trembling and drooling in the weakness of his flesh. He collapsed onto his knees as though awaiting to receive a Goddess and swooned in sheer excitement of what was to take his breath away. The audience too were equally swooned upon hearing such a seductive call and eagerly awaiting the revelation of the Empress’s beauty so renowned – the role played out by the then famous actress-Li Li Hwa.

This lady bird is but of a different kind!

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Lo and behold, the projectionist suddenly switched everything off leaving the cinema and audience in darkness. The sporting audience responded with cat calls, whistling – “Phee.. Phew!” I could still remember the anti-climatic shouts and ecstatic screams the audience gave out and some even resorted to banging their collapsible theatre chairs to say, “More! More!”

To console readers, I am no projectionist but an amateur writer to amuse you with a bit of my interesting life adventures, apart from bringing you back to earth with real images of a bathing bird through my digiscope and taken with consent.

The image above shows Lucinko drying out in the morning sun. She turned around to sun dry her rear then finally her front (below)

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Finally at 11.40 am, the Jade Empress having had a satisfying and peaceful bird bath, bade me farewell, flew and vanished.

I bade farewell too. I did not collapse nor did DG Scope.

DAISY O’NEILL, AVIAN WRITER, PENANG, MALAYSIA.

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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