A tragic story of an owl fledgling

posted in: Nesting-failed | 0

In many rural villages in Malaysia, and for that matter, probably in all Southeast Asian countries (and Singapore is no exception), fledglings of birds that fall accidentally from their nests are rescued and cared for. They can then become cage birds, to be had for a few dollars. In many cases, especially if the rescuers are caring, the fledgling will be looked after if injured, to be eventually released. Owls may be prized for their unusual looks, the superstitions that go with them, etc. and the fate of a displaced fledgling will be in the hands of the resucer…

An earlier post describes the situation in villages. Now, KC Tsang, just back from a trip to Johor in May 2007, brings a tragic story of a Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo) juvenile encaged and ready to be sold.…

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“I have found another sad tale to tell. Last weekend I was having a relaxing weekend with the family at Sedili Besar, Johor. I was walking around Kampong Sedili Besar with my camera hoping to catch something interesting when the kampong kids came up to me saying “Inche, ada burong hantu, ada burong hantu di sanar” [Mister, we have an owl over there]. So they led me to this beautiful Spotted Wood Owl juvenile in a cage. As you can see from the picture, his beak had been bruised as he rubs it against the chicken wire cage trying to find a way to escape (above).

“The person who caught the bird is Inche Dollah, and the kids told me that it was up for sale. But I decided not to have anything to do with encouraging the man to trap more birds, so I told them I had no interest in buying it.

“As the bird is not in Singapore I do not think we can do anything to save it, but hope the Malaysian Nature Society (Johore Branch) can do some about it.

“The kampong folks told me that the parents still comes around looking for the juvenile in the evenings.”

Note 1:The Spotted Wood Owl is totally protected in Malaysia under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.

Note 2: If you find a chick that has fallen from its nest, place it in a safe place away from possible predators, like on an elevated platform. Do not remove it away from its nesting area. The parents will eventually find it and look after it. If you find a displaced chick in your garden, place it in a shoe box, for example, and leave it somewhere that the cat cannot get at it until the parents claim it. In the night, cover the box to keep the chick safe – see what Margaret did when she found a displaced Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) in her garden.

Encounters with the Great Argus

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 2

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To encounter a Great Argus (Argusianus argus) is a birder’s dream come true. Both the common and scientific names make reference to Argus, the Greek mythology giant with a hundred eyes, in reference to the many eyes-like markings on the wing feathers of the bird.

Gerard Goh visited Taman Negara in December 2006 and brought back memories of the Great Argus: “…our trek along the Menam Trail… sighting of the Great Argus in the afternoon of Day 3. Trekking along the Menam Trail, its call of `kow wow‘ became closer as we trekked. At the turn of a trail, we came right in full view of the pheasant bird. It did not give a hint of being in danger and even posed for our cameras (above). Heard by many, seen by few. We were indeed lucky to have this sighting.” The montage below shows some of the many scenes Gerard captured while in the park.

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In May 2007 KC Tsang and Amy returned from the Danum Valley, Sabah (below) with an equally memorable encounter: “I can only say that this is a lifer for both Amy and me. Had to do a lot of trekking through the dark forest of Danum Valley to find this bird. Not only that, there were lots of leeches, and mozzies to contend with. Danum Valley is the place to find these monster birds, which can grow up to 203 cm. We could hear them calling all around us, some sounded so near, tried to follow the call, but to no avail as they knew we were around.

“Found three dance sites, but only the first one had this bird. It stayed around for about five minutes, until he noticed that I was getting too close for his comfort, and he then disappeared into the forest. Tried to find them the next day, could not see even one. But they were around all the time, calling out loudly. Saw this bird: 17th May 2007, 8.25 am.”

The Great Argus is an extremely shy jungle bird, rarely seen but often heard. During the mating season it’s loud and penetrating call triggers a response from neighbouring males. Soon, the jungle is reverberated with the characteristic kwauow. This call is issued as a challenge to other males as well as to attract females to his court.

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At the start of the mating season older adult males begin to clear a space where they do their courtship dance for the benefit of the females. This so-called court is usually found in a spot where the ground vegetation is sparse. Plants are removed from the ground by scraping with his bill. Any overhanging vegetation is similarly removed. Litter is blown off with the flapping of the wings.

The bird is a brown-plumaged pheasant with a small blue head and neck, rufous red upper breast and red legs. The male is up to 200 cm in length, including its very long tail feathers. Its greatly elongated secondary wing feathers are decorated with large eye-like markings. The female is smaller and duller, with shorter tail.

The courtship dance involves spreading and raising his large wing feathers, the better to show the eye markings. The long tail feathers are also raised, flipping them towards the head. I gather the dance would be highly exciting to witness.

Images by Garard (top argus, Taman Negara montage) and KC (bottom argus).

Buffy Fish Owl encounters

posted in: Owls | 3

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“One of the most common owls I have encountered in Singapore is the Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu) (left). The owl breeds on the mainland and also on the offshore island of Pulau Ubin.

“I once went to a villager’s house where the breeding seems to be prolific and I interviewed the resident about the owls.

“He said ‘The owl will come to make a nest in a hole in the tree trunk. When the baby owl gets bigger, it will come out and hang around to be fed fish by the parent. When it is exposed, it gets attacked by crows and other birds and will fall to the ground. Sometimes when it begins to learn to fly, it may also fall on the ground’.

“It is not uncommon for people to pick up a helpless baby owl and take care of it until it fledges (below). Interestingly, the villager did pick up fallen baby owls and put them on an elevated wooden platform. The parents would come in the evening and continue feeding the juvenile.

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“Some juveniles learn to fly fairly easily while others take a longer time, often falling to the ground. On the ground the young bird is exposed to predators like civet cat, domestic cat, etc.

“When a juvenile owl is approached, it makes a cup-cup-cup sound by clapping its beak. It may also clap in response to threats or when annoyed. While we call this clapping, the sound may actually be caused by the clicking of the tongue, not the bill. The parents will invariably fly down close to observe what is going on (below).

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“I once stayed with a baby owl for four hours. It eventually recognised me and will not beak clap. If someone else approached it will clap again. So owls obviously have the ability to recognise people who do not threaten them just like geese used as guard dogs by Chinese farmers.”

Allan Teo
Singapore
30th April 2007

Laura-Laurie’s alpha+omega to parenthood

posted in: Nesting | 1

Intense observation of nesting birds is really not my forte. Apart from being intensive and a time consuming hobby, it is treading thinly into the fragile realm of avian breeding cycles. It is not recommended for novice bird watchers/photographers or twitchers ill primed for scientific field work.

It is not because I dislike the idea of looking at naked chicks. To say I am not curious would be not telling the truth. However, it will not be easy for any birder to convince me to make a ‘Beep! Beep!’ road runner‘s dash to join the queue of elated nest chasers for hunting shots; go home feeling lucky-happy; and or, competitively comparing images with each other at the expense of stressing nesting birds.

In the interest of birds’ welfare, I choose to be recalcitrant in this aspect of not observing nesting birds at close range or be absent. And, if that decision I make is one less potential human predator to parenting birds, or compromise the breeding cycle of especially rare birds, that is fine by me.

Somehow, the power of the unseen has an uncanny way of rewarding me for my choice to stay convicted to my beliefs. It provides me the joys of sighting those rarities in the wild conveniently, without me having to chase or hunt them down; and showing me things of interests or situations to write and share my thoughts and joys with readers. Some may choose to call it birding luck.

Laura and Laurie, the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycononotus goiavier) may not be a rarity in Malaysia. But they are soon to show their appreciation of my noble intent, by supporting my cause as their avian ambassadress, in the advocacy of good, birding practice.

In the past several years, pairs of bulbuls have turned my balcony into an avian maternity home. They came and went with their new families. I was reluctant to get myself embroiled in observation right from the beginning as that would mean also, I had to follow through until fledging. Anyway, let’s zoom in to read and see what they have been acting up.

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This time it was different. With Laurie’s moon walking stunts and sending me avian Morse Code with his tap dance repertoires, he finally got my attention (left). This hero is different and got style!

He was like telling me, “Hey Mam, we have decided on the nesting venue; we are Steven Spielberg’s nominated actor and actress and we have chosen you to roll the camera; and, we are ready!” How could one refuse such a privileged invitation when the stage is set and brought forth in front of one’s bedroom window, and the obligation of knowing your home is the chosen one? And so… this story began one day in January 2007.

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Laura and Laurie were finally seen together perched in their favourite roost- a Christmas tree tucked at the side of the driveway (top right).

It has taken Laurie months to win Laura over. The tinkling sounds of tap-dancing finally came to a halt. The pair disappeared for their pre-nuptial honeymoon and appeared after an absence of 2 long months. Laura turned up one day perched on the balcony rail with nesting material. Laurie on sentry duties spotted me observing from my bedroom. Vigilant as always, he squawked a warning call to his mate, sending her fleeing into a nearby mango fruit tree.

‘This is not good’ I said to myself and decided to get my act together and did right by draping a camouflaged curtain in the balcony. Further observation revealed the nesting site to be at a corner of the side balcony, where I had used assorted artificial foliages to decorate a hanging macramé basket (bottom above)

A recycled, old bird cage picked up from a Masalama (Goodbye) sale once used as ornamental piece for decorating miniature indoor plants, found a new purpose with the hanging macramé basket.

Laura and Laurie’s parenting skills were excellent, well synchronised and exhibited outstanding team work.

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The 3-point observation technique: ‘Look right, look front, look left’ for predators is always mustered before the nesting site is approached (above). Nest raiders like the Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) are commonly seen and they are never far away.

The speed at which the nest was built was astonishingly quick. By evening the same day, the nest was already taking shape (below). Materials used ranged from dried straws to foliages found nearby.

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What was interesting and intelligently put to use was a polythene sheet, lined at the bottom to reinforce and waterproof the nest. Discerning housing contractors would also use a waterproof membrane to line the foundation at ground level before bricks and mortar get piled on top. I wonder who is learning from whom?

The images show a very neat, steady nest, piling tall, testifying the fine workmanship of Laura and Laurie. It is not shoddy and short changing like many houses being built these days.

It took three days to complete the nest. It looked like a nest built within a nest. Fourth day was rest day for Laura and Laurie.

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The first egg with reddish-brown spots came on the fifth day. The balcony was sectioned off and I decided it was time to head off for a retreat, leaving the house to the pair to incubate their eggs with minimal disturbance (far left). A week later upon my return, a second egg was observed. Exactly fourteen days after the first egg was laid, Laura was seen with grub in her beak (above right, arrow).

It was time for another inspection. The eggs have hatched and two featherless chicks noted. I decided to take no photographs to show readers. Instead, to visualize what new born naked chicks would look like. Besides, they were nothing chic or pretty to look at this stage, similar to new born human babies.

It was a critical time. For chicks to thrive, feeding schedules had to be maintained and predators kept away. I had to exercise discretion and I kept my distance.

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There are 39 species of bulbuls in SEA belonging to the Pycnonotidae family and they are mainly insectivorous and frugivorous. What did Laura and Laurie feed the chicks with? Let’s take a look at some images (left).

Four days into hatching, Laurie was observed bringing in the biggies! First a damsel fly and later in the week, a grasshopper!

There was a night and day of continuous rainfall and the heavens opened its’ ‘flood gates’ and deluged the whole residential area with flood waters.

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Feeding continued. While there were no life creepy-crawlies to be had on bad days, Laura was seen soaking wet and bringing in a motionless looking stale, crumb of macaroni for the hungry chicks (far right). Well, hard times call for tough measures.

Parenting is a stressful and strenuous task as seen in the plumage of Laurie and Laura. Apart from having lost some weight, they have not been preening themselves to look neat and in good form like other birds did (top left).

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A week into hatching, a quick, opportunity inspection was carried out when Laura was away for breakfast with Laurie. I soon learnt the familiar 7am- breakfast, whistle call by Laurie.

The chicks were looking spiky (top left). On the 9th day, transformation was amazing. They were looking downy (bottom left). On the 11th day, a commotion was heard in the balcony. I popped my head out of the doorway to investigate.

‘Oh, my goodness!’ I was taken by surprise.

A chick was perching stoically on the edge of the nest. The parents were frantically coaxing the chick to fly. I dashed downstairs for my camera and raced up again equally as excited as the parenting pair. Was the chick still there? Yes!

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It was still waiting for me to provide a hand-held single, blurry shot. After which, the chick took flight with the parents (top right). The nest became empty. Suddenly… all went quiet (bottom right).

I was taken by surprise that fledging came so early. What happened to the other chick? Was it predated or fledged earlier?

Four days after fledging, it rained heavily. Like every parent with pangs of concern of a child’s safety just left home, I wondered how the chicks weathered the storm.

As Mother Nature is the best provider of survival instincts, one chick was seen perched under the canopy balcony for shelter while parents weathered the storm at the roost.

The Omega chapter has got to be the most rewarding to write. Here I am able to finally confirm the well being of two lovely and healthy chicks of Laura and Laurie on the 8th day of fledgling.

Readers, I present you: Laura-Laurie Juniors (below: right male, left female).

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SUBMITTED BY DAISY O’NEILL (Avian Writer), PENANG, MALAYSIA.

(The bedroom was used as an observation point and hide. Some images were shot from the bedroom. No flash photography used in any of the images.)

Grey-headed Fish Eagle

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates | 9

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There are two genera of specialist fish eating eagles – Haliaeetus and Ichthyophaga. They live around aquatic habitats and feed almost exclusively on fish. But this does not mean that they do not take other prey. Sometimes they also feed on birds and small mammals.

The eight species of Haliaeetus are typically coastal and large inland water body species. Ichthyophaga, of which there are two species, both found in Asia, are associated with rivers and streams.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) is a rare resident usually confined to the Central Catchment forest (left). The eagle has a small greyish head on a longish neck. The wings and body are dark brownish grey and the lower belly, thigh and under tail coverts are white, the last with terminal or subterminal black band.

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The eagle hunts from a vantage perch by the water. Once it spots a fish, it lunges at it, grabbing it with its talons (above). Generally these eagles catch fish near the surface of the water, normally immersing only the feet and legs. Once the fish is caught, it is brought back to the perch to be eaten (below).

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Central montage top left and right and bottom left by Lee Tiah Khee; the rest by Chan Yoke Meng.

Sparrow’s fledgling and oral flanges

posted in: Feeding chicks | 2

I was strolling around the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake one evening (14th May 2007) and enjoying the antics of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus). These birds seem to suddenly become common around this area ever since visitors began feeding, first the fish, then the birds. The sparrows congregate among certain dense plantings, one of which is the ixora (Ixora sp.) patch. That set me wondering as to whether they are now beginning to nest in trees and bushes.

As everyone knows, our sparrow, although called Eurasian Tree Sparrow, traditionally nests in the eaves of houses. A few still nest in my house but as neighbours are rebuilding and apparently adopting modern roof structures, sparrows are not nesting in these modern houses. Have any birders observe sparrows nesting in trees and bushes?


That evening, I noticed a sparrow fledgling calling loudly from the ground by the pond, obviously begging to be fed by its parents. It behaved as most fledglings behave. With wings partially spread low down, it quivered its feathers as fledglings normally do. At the same time it fluffed its breast feathers (right).

And being a recent introduction to this world, it has yet to develop the instincts of being cautious oh humans. I was thus able to capture a few images in my memory card to examine them later on. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I noticed the presence of prominent yellow oral flanges (right, arrow). These develop on both sides of the mouth, extending from the corner and tapering towards the tip of the bill. They are temporary enlargement that function as targets for adults feeding the chick.

The oral flanges are prominent in the chicks of the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) (1, 2), which together with the reddish gape, make a prominent food target. We now know that the sparrow has yellow oral flanges but has anyone any idea whether its gape is also red?

Eurasian Tree Sparrow is a very common bird and we tend to take it for granted. But obviously there are many aspects that are yet unknown. And if known, the information needs to be made available. As the saying goes, knowledge not shared is knowledge lost.

YC Wee
Singapore
May 2007

Common Tailorbird: A failed nesting

posted in: Nesting-failed | 5

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On 19th March 2007 a male Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) was perching on one of my plants in my garden and calling loudly with his high pitch chiup-chiup-chiup-chiup (left). As he was making this incessant loud calls, he had his head cocked up and his wings partially opened and flapping vigorously. At the same time his long and narrow tail was continuously raised and lowered. Normally shy and moving about all the time, he stayed put on his perch for some minutes. Of course he was showing off to his female.

Towards the end of the month when Chan Yoke Meng was around, he noticed the male bird foraging in my garden. Then the the bird flew in a rather indirect way to my neighbour’s garden across the road. Perching on a plant, he looked around and suddenly flew downwards to a small patch of ginger plants by the driveway.

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At once we knew there was a nest among the plants. Peering through the gate, we managed to see a brown nest-like structure sandwiched between two leaves less than a metre from the ground (right). It was a tailorbird’s nest.

It was only a week later that I managed to take a closer look. Yes, the nest was active. Not wanting to disturb the nesting birds, we left the nest alone. Subsequently the birds were not seen around and so on 22nd April, sure that the nesting was completed, my neighbour Sheng Lau, went to take a closer look. Sure enough the nest was empty.

The nest was then collected and examined visually. There appeared nothing inside. Turning it upside down, nothing fell out, not even bits of eggshell. Happy that the nesting was successful, I left the nest overnight and examined it the next morning.

Imagine my surprise when a pair of dried skeletons stared me in the face after I cut the nest open (below). The nesting was a failure. The chicks died some days before they were old enough to fledge. Apparently the parent birds failed to feed them and they starved.

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According to Morten Strange, at that advanced stage of development, the parents would normally not abandon the chicks even if the nest was disturbed. And the nest was definitely not disturbed. The most probable reason of the chicks’ death would be that the parent birds came to some tragic end. Morten may have a point there as I do not hear the characteristic high pitch chiup-chiup-chiup around my garden anymore.

I wonder what happened to one or both of the parent birds?

Input by YC and Morten, images by YC.

Hatching of chick and removal of eggshell

posted in: Nesting | 3

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While walking round the Symphony Lake of the Singapore Botanic Gardens one evening, I came across one half of an eggshell on the ground. The white shell looked too nicely cut round the equator to be natural. So I threw it away.

A few days later Melinda Chan sent me an image of the eggshell of a Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) that she found lodged in the fork of a tree near where a pair of the birds was nesting (left). The white shell looked similar to the one I picked up earlier.

Both pieces must have been discarded by the parent birds immediately after hatching. This is usually the case as leaving the shells around the nest may attract predators. We earlier documented this during the nesting of the Peaceful Dove, also known as Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) (below) and Little Tern (Sterna albifrons).

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Now we come to the question of how come the break in the eggshell is so clean and how was the egg cracked nicely into two.

After the usual number of days of incubation, the developing bird embryo inside is ready to be hatched. Just before this, it develops an egg tooth, a short but pointed structure on the tip of the beak. Near the end of the incubation period the fully developed embryo rubs its egg tooth against the inner wall of the egg. By this time most of the calcium in the shell would have been reabsorbed by the developing embryo and the shell would be very much weakened.

Once the shell is punctured, the egg is said to be pipped. This first puncture is followed by a series of others encircling the blunt end of the egg. Eventually the shell gives way and the chick struggles free. Within a few days after hatching the egg tooth falls off or is reabsorbed by the growing chick.

Once the chick is hatched, one of the parent birds usually removes the shells and dump them some distance away.

YC Wee
Singapore
May 2007
(Images by Melinda Chan (top) and YC (bottom))

Nesting of Coppersmith Barbet

posted in: Barbet-To'can-H'guide, Nesting | 2

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As Tang Hung Bun was walking along Jalan Keli in the late afternoon on 16th April 2007, he spotted a bird flying towards a clump of palms (left bottom). The bird was not behaving normally and this made him curious. It was a Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala) and it was about to enter a hole in a tall, slender trunk of a dead lipstick palm (Cyrtostachys renda) (left top). It was obviously nesting.

He kept close watch for the next four weeks, documenting the nesting with his digital and video cameras – see his webpage.

Coppersmith Barbet is a common colourful resident bird. Most of the time it is found around the tree canopy, often heard but seldom seen. It likes to perch high up on a branch, where it utters its repetitive tonk that sounds like the beat of the coppersmith’s mallet, thus its common name.

The bird excavates a cavity in a semi-rotten tree trunk or branch where the female lays her eggs. According to Madoc (1956) it excavates more than one cavity, using one to lay the eggs and the others to roost at night. The Coppersmith roosts singly, unlike other species where two or more may roost in a single cavity.

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Hung Bun managed to distinguish the sexes, although sexual dimorphism in barbets is not strongly marked. According to him the male has a richer red patch across his breast. He believes that there were at least two chicks in the nest. Both parents fed the chicks mainly with fruits, probably figs. Feeding was somewhat interesting. The parent bird flew in with up to three figs in its beak (above left). Arriving at the nest, it looked over its shoulder just once before poking its head into the nest cavity to feed the chicks. Withdrawing its head with a remaining fig, the bird nervously looked around – left, right and left again, checking to see if everything was alright. With a last turn of its head to see whether it was being followed, it poked its head in again. By then a chick had lost its patience and stuck its head out to receive the fig (above right).

After a few visits the female was seen entering the nest immediately after feeding to emerge with her beak full of wastes. Poking her head out, she paused for a while before flying out to dump the waste away from the nest (below). The male was not observed doing this chore. Both parents were observed picking ants from the nest.

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Just before the chicks were about to fledge, they would vigorously peck the breast of the parent after a bout of feeding.

On 11th May, 25 days after he first spotted the barbet entering its nest, Hung Bun recorded on video a parent bird trying very hard to pull a dead chick out of the nest. With its beak firmly clamped on the dead chick’s head, it managed to partially pull it out. Only the head was out, but the body was still hanging inside (below left). The bird flew out to return and tried again. Perched firmly on the outside of the nest, it again tried pulling the body out by the head. Again it failed. It flew off again to return with renewed energy (below right). This time it managed to pull the dead body totally out and let if fall to the ground below. The chick was at an advanced stage of development.

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The questions that need to be asked are: What caused the death of the chick? Was it killed by its sibling? By one of the parent birds? Can space constraint triggered the killing of the chick? After all the stem of the lipstick palm is 7.5 cm in diameter and the palms where the birds were nesting appear to be more slender than normal.

Another possibility was predation by snakes, squirrels or whatever.

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The next few days the parent birds did not fly directly to the nest as was the case before. Instead, they perched on a nearby branch for some time before approaching the nest. This was obviously to encourage the chick to emerge. On 15th May the surviving chick finally fledged. It poked its head out of the nest entrance, stayed that way for a few minutes (right). All the time it was calling softly. It then flew to a nearby tree, continuously calling to its parents. The next day the fledgling was not seen nor heard. It must have flown away with its parents.

Tang Hung Bun
Singapore
May 2007

Oriental White-eye: Feeding the chicks

posted in: Feeding chicks | 6

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Most birds feed their chicks with animal food during the few days after hatching, even those birds that feed mainly on fruits and grains. The Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) is no exception. This bird feeds on insects, fruits and nectar from flowers. The young have been observed to be fed mainly on caterpillars. The images above show the chick at various ages being fed with succulent caterpillars. Other invertebrates like spiders and ants are also popular (below). However, no plant food was seen delivered to the chicks. This is understandable, as growing chicks need proteins more than sugars and carbohydrates.

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The parent birds are kept busy all day long, flying off to forage and returning to feed the chicks. But when they return, they do not fly directly to the nest. They perch nearby and survey the surroundings (left). Only when all is clear do they fly to the nest. Once the bird lands by the nest, the vibrations will cause the chicks to open their mouths fully, even just after hatching when they are blind. And without fail, every chick in the nest will strain its neck upwards with mouth wide open, ready to be fed.

Unlike raptors and such where the parent tears off pieces and feed the chicks one by one, here, every trip brings only food for one chick. Therefore the oldest and naturally the most aggressive of the chicks usually ends up with the most food. In the recent nesting of the white-eye at Kent Ridge, the original three chicks ended up two. The missing chick, obviously the youngest and weakest, was probably dumped out of the nest by its two siblings or else fell off. This was the case in an earlier documentation where the third chick was found on the ground below the nest.

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What becomes apparent once the chick gapes is the reddish colouration of the inner area of the mouth, lined with prominent swollen yellow oral flanges, believed to be “food targets” for the parents (right, arrows).

Immediately after feeding a chick, the adult moves to the rear of the fed chick to await the faecal sac. With its beak, it carefully picks the sac as it appears from the cloaca to disposes it some distance away.

YC Wee & Melinda Chan
Singapore
May 2007
(Images by Chan Yoke Meng)

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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