The ubiquitous Lineated Barbet

posted in: Barbet-To'can-H'guide | 0

While Laurie, the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pyconotus goiavier) romanced his lady bird with a repertoire of showmanship dancing; Johnny, the randy Coppersmith Barbet’s (Megalaima haemacephala) gambit of a third and free bonk that paid off; what has his bigger cousin, the Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) got to show readers, the varied fascinating courtships and barbets’ behaviour of this avian species?

A well lived-in, modern, Malay village in Northern Peninsula Malaysia is where another unique behaviour was observed.

Within a pocket of inland open-plan, individual kampong-styled houses are cultivated palms and orchards. They thrive side by side, scattering their trees and dividing houses of verandas displaying a variety of outdoor, evergreen potted plants and tropical flowers.


While stumps of old coconut palms were left to rot, those remained standing became condominiums to various species of birds. Old excavated cavities in the trunks bear witnesses to the many generations of barbets and woodpeckers that came and went. When cavities left idle, they became confinement hotels to some birds that do not excavate holes but turned them into low-cost, high-rise, top class squatters.

As shown in the image on the left, one stump in particular caught my attention – one that looks like a giant wind instrument – the recorder. This is the ancestral home of the ubiquitous, Lineated Barbet.

In the open country of semi-deciduous forests of North Malaysian Peninsula, the chances of hearing the echoed calls of the Lineated Barbet ‘Kuk-kroik! Kuk-kroik!’ (second note a fourth higher) is good. Often, a seemingly mate sits unseen, not too far away, would reply in unison – thus giving away the site of his/her perch.

There are 72 worldwide species of mostly green coloured barbets with distinctive head patterns – with the exception of the Brown Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus) whose plumage is virtually all brown. The approximate 29cm Lineated Barbet of imperial jade coloured body-plumage, straw-coloured head and streaked dark-brown upper breast, blend exceedingly well into their living environment. They are difficult to see when remained quietly perched in tree canopies. Such natural camouflage makes Lineated Barbets one of the best and challenging birds to observe and to photograph in the wild.

The heavy bodied and big headed Lineated Barbet is seen to be an intelligent vigilante with precision tactical decoy.


The series of images above show the following sequence of events. Prior to entering excavated nesting hole, the female vigilantly checked for predatory onlookers. Fronting the nesting cavity, she clung the sides of dead trunk with her zygodactylous toes.

The female Lineated Barbet looked right, looked left, rotated her neck to look behind, and with an expression of glee would she thought safe to proceed further.


She delightfully peeped into her new condominium. ‘‘Heloo….Anyone home…?”

Her large dark buttoned eyes, surrounded by a wide, prominent orbital skin, sparkled with approval and satisfaction. Her opened huge, pinkish bill equated to a broad smile of happiness, like a new bride or mistress just been given keys to a new penthouse at West End (right top).

At this stage of writing, I am unable to tell if the excavation of the nesting site was done solely by the male as a gift to the female to inspect for approval or built by both partners. I had witnessed excavation works but unable to tell the sexes apart. They all looked the same.

I chanced upon an opportunity to witness their tactical decoy towards the end of their previous breeding season in June last year. One parent had just finished chick feeding. I then got out of my vehicle. A bird on sentry duty spotted me with my scope. Perched within view of the nest that is no less than 20 feet tall, the sentry raised the alarm calls. ‘Kuk-kroik! Kuk-kroik!’ The parent made for a dash flight away from the nest.

Portia, the parent landed on a living coconut trunk (left top). The chick was nesting in a cavity of dead tree trunk nearb (left bottom). In open view Portia proceeded to pretend drumming the trunk to distract my attention away from the nesting site. Every now and then she would turn around, looked towards my direction to ensure I was watching her performance. She refused to fly off even when I closed in on her. What excellent team work, I thought.

I guess the favourite and pleasurable observation of all avid birders and readers has to be courtship behaviour. Be it courtship dancing or feeding.


By no means has the male Lineated Barbet a long tail with dazzling plumage to dance and display like the Great Argus (Argusiamus argus) pheasant. Neither does the pair exhibit any kind of finesse in courtship feeding behaviour where their ‘table manners’ are left much to be admired.

Two Lineated Barbets were serenading to each other from a shady tree (above). With my scope, I scanned the source of their characteristic song, ‘Ku-tub! Ku-tub’ repeated one verse per second continuously. Eventually, I located Martha. The female barbet was perching on an opened branch.

Monty, the frugivorous male was playing ‘Hide and Seek’ behind a thick branch. He was partially seen by me, but soon got found by Martha. He appeared meekly with a fruity gift for Martha. In that split second, the quick witted Martha, snatched the gift off his beak, did a runner, leaving Monty totally in dismay!



It happened so quickly, the camera and I had no opportunity to pick up that moment. One image however, showed Monty’s dismay as if to say,, ‘Gosh! You don’t waste time do you, woman?’ (right).

As for Martha, the quick witted Barbet, she turned her back on Monty while savouring the gift all to herself.

‘A pleasure to have served you Mam…’ Exit Monty in a dash.

The final analysis. “Is Monty, the male Lineated Barbet being smart or daft?”


Hanging parrot, parakeets and oil palms

posted in: Feeding-plants | 1


It was raining almost every evening, depriving Eileen and myself our usual walk in the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG). Then one evening sometime last week, the sky cleared. We had our walk but along the way we were distracted by the arrival of a flock of noisy parakeets. They came for the ripening oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) fruits.


The Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda) that arrived noisly landed on the palms. Greedily, they feasted on the ripe fruits. Being messy and wasteful eaters, they littered the ground below with half eaten fruits.

The birds would first wrench a ripe fruit from a bunch with the help of their powerful beak. Standing on one foot, the fruit would then be passed on to the other foot. Grasping the fruit in this foot, the flesh of the oil-rich fibrous outer layer would then be torn off by the powerful beak and eaten (left).

It was rather amusing to watch the antics of these parakeets, as they moved sideways along the frond stems, snatching the fruits and eating them. At times they flew from frond to frond, looking for different bunches with the choicest ripe fruits. The Long-tailed Parakeets were easy to recognise, with their colourful plumage and prominently long tail-streamer. But they were always noisy.


A pair of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) arrived later but invariably they flew off whenever the Long-tailed appeared to feed on the same bunch of fruits. These were just as attractive, easily recognised by their distinctive black and pink collar (right).

Just then we noticed a smaller, mainly green bird, moving over another fruiting bunch, hanging upside down to get at the choicest, otherwise inaccessible, ripe fruit (top). Like the parakeets, this cute little Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) ended up perching on one foot to transfer the fruit from beak to the other foot before eating the oily outer layer. It was a joy to be able to spot this rare parrot.

Input by YC who wishes to thank Chan Yoke Meng for taking the above images.

Hornbills at Changi: Sealing herself in

posted in: Hornbills | 4


On 8th February 2007 the female Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) found the cavity in the Shorea gibbosa tree suitable and entered it. Then she began the slow process of sealing herself inside. We thought that she was then ready to settle down and lay her eggs. But that was not to be. For the next 13 days up to 21st February, the male was still bring her lumps of mud together with grass stems (left) for her to fortify herself inside the cavity.

It has been reported that she would mix the mud with her droppings and any uneaten food to construct the barrier. Obviously this was hard work and she needed to be fed. Unlike other species of hornbills, the female Oriental Pied does not leave the nest during this period.


Thus the female inside needed to be fed. In between bringing mud (above), the male brought figs and other seasonal fruits (below). From samples found below the tree and from photographs, Angie Ng managed to identify the figs to be either Ficus stricta or F. kerkhoveni and the orange-looking fruits to be Bhesa robusta.



During the morning observations, the male was seen bringing fruits at intervals of about 20-30 minutes. He passed the fruits to her after regurgitating them, about five to six times a visit. The seeds on the upper right image are those of Bhesa robusta while the lower right show Bhesa together with figs. [The two smaller pinkish seeds have now been identified by Angie as those of the MacArthur palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii).]

Fruits appear to be the main food at that stage, although there were occasions when insects were brought, including a beetle and a praying mantis.

Besides a snail shell reported earlier, he also brought a shell of a land snail as well as a whole land snail. In this case he cracked open the garden snail and the contents fell into the open bill of the female.


Twice he brought her a lizard, one of which was identified as a Changeable Lizard (left). This last piece of morsel was brought on 12th February and offered to the female. She refused both lizards, one of which was rather large. The male in one instance flew off to a nearby tree and must have eaten it himself. In the other instance, he flicked the lizard around, tossed it into the air and caught it with his bill. This went on for a fair number of minutes, before he flew off to the tree opposite to consume the lizard as previously.

One of the lizards was caught from just above the nest. He was looking down at the female when he suddenly leapt up to a parakeet’s nest one branch above and caught it.

Input by KC Tsang, Meng and Melinda Chan and Angie Ng. Images by Chan Yoke Meng except fruits/seeds by Angie and hornbill with lizard by KC.

Aerial display: White-bellied Sea Eagle

posted in: Courtship-Mating, Reports | 3


Birders are always fascinated as well as impressed by the acrobatic aerial displays they witness when observing raptors, especially the White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) (left). They always wonder exactly what the birds are up to. Are they fighting? Are they indulging in a particular form of courtship ritual? Or are they at play? The answer can be any one of these three.

The series of dramatic images below of a pair of juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagles captured by Chan Yoke Meng in 2005 probably show the birds at play. But we have no way to be sure. Another series of images by Lee Tiah Khee taken at Kranji recently also show a pair of juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagles in aerial display, again probably at play (bottom). In both cases the eagles are in the process of locking talons.


Play and courtship displays involve a pair of birds, sometimes flying to great heights in circles over the nesting areas. The male sometimes dives at the female who may sideslip or turn over to present her talons. At times this ends up in the pair grappling talons and cartwheeling down to earth, only breaking off at the last moment before they hit the ground.


The birds may also get involved in high-speed chases, sometimes again ending in locking talons, to then roll together in fantastic aerial displays.

While such displays may be closely associated with courtship, the actual mating does not occur in the air but on a nest or in a tree.

And not every cartwheel display is courtship behavior. Cartwheeling is also often associated with aggression and defense of territory. Sometimes the bird may grab at a competitor’s talons or even lock talons and plummet to earth in an effort to intimidate the other party.

Input by YC, images of first panel by Chan Yoke Meng, the second panel and the top image by Lee Tiah Khee through the good office of Ashley Ng.

Portrait of an owl: Buffy Fish Owl

posted in: Owls | 2

The owl was faithfully perching on the same branch of the same tree almost every day for most of February 2007. It was there from early morning to late evening and was clearly visible to passersby. Where else can you view an own during the day but at Sentosa?

Yes, this is Sentosa’s very own Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu).


The owl advertises its presence by the whitewash that stains the vegetation below. This is actually the bird’s liquid faeces and urine, made up mainly of uric acid (above).

The owl is normally seen with one foot on the branch and the other hidden among the body feathers. Its eyes are either opened, half-open or closed. When excessively stressed, especially by the presence of noisy trekkers below, it opens its eyes wide, the ears become erect together with all the feathers around (below). Note the nictitating membrane in both the eyes in the image on the right.


Although most people believe that owls can see in the dark and are blinded by bright light, this is not so. In total darkness as during moonless nights, they are not able to see. But the presence of starlight is enough for them to see. They can still see during the day. But as with night vision, owls can only see in varying degrees of black and white.

The eyes can react to the amount of light available by varying the size of the pupil through the action of the iris. As with many nocturnal animals, the eyes of owls, when exposed to a source of external light at night, respond with varying degrees of “eyeshine” – appearing to glow from red to gold (below right).

The two large and round eyes are placed directly in front, unlike in most other birds where the eyes are on the sides. This provides excellent binocular vision and with it depth of field, an advantage in gauging distances and in ensuring successful hunts.


The large eyes are not spherical but rather like elongated tubes embedded in the head. And because of this there can be no eyeball movement.

The owl is thus provided with an extremely flexible neck that allows the head to turn up to 270 degrees in either direction. This allows the bird to see behind without turning its body (left). It is also able to turn its heads almost completely upside down, allowing it to see upwards with binocular vision.

During rest, the upper and lower eyelids close. But in blinking, only the upper eyelid is involved (above left). The third eyelid, a translucent nictitating membrane that moves sideways, assists in protecting the eye and to keeping it clean (above right, left eye).

A closer look at the eyes show the presence of “eyelashes” that are actually special feathers that function to keep insects off the eyes (below).

There must be plenty of food around, especially rodents, for Sentosa to have such a visible owl mascot – as well as other species of owls. We are confident that the resort staff will not eliminate these rodents by baiting them with rat poison. Owls will eat the poisoned rats and be in turn poisoned. This is one way of moving towards a sanitised and faunal-free resort island.

Update: According to today’s Sunday Times, Sentosa Development Corporation is organising a walkabout and closed-door discussion with green groups, etc. on the clearing of the forest to make way for the Integrated Resort. As such, the area has been spruced and vegetation stained by the owl’s whitewash (top left) has now been cleaned. In the process the owl must have been disturbed and is nowhere to be seen for the past week.

Input by Melinda Chan and YC, images by Chan Yoke Meng.

Anatomy of a nest: Oriental White-eye

posted in: Nests | 1


This is the nest that the pair of Oriental White-eyes (Zosterops palpebrosus) built in Yen Lau’s potted Australian Bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus) plant in December 2006-January 2007 (above left). The nest on the right is that of July 2006.

The current nest is a small and extremely flimsy, cup-shaped, asymmetrical nest. Circular in outline, the nest has a diameter of 65 mm and depth of 45 mm. The cup diameter is 55 mm and cup depth 35 mm.

The nest is sited about 2 metres up the potted plant. It is attached at three points to three very slender (3 mm) branches of the bottlebrush plant with the help of what looks like spider web or its cocoon silk (above). These pieces of silk are also found scattered on the outer surface of the nest.

The outer layer of the nest is woven from narrow strips of vegetable matters, probably grass leaves, a few strips of transparent raffia with a few bottlebrush leaves incorporated. The inner lining is made up mostly of very fine, black and shiny ‘stem’ pieces that are loosely placed around, not carefully weaved or even crudely interlocked.


The base of the nest is extra flimsy and see-through. Looking into the nest, it is possible to see through it (top right). Thus it was possible to see the eggs while the nest was still attached to the potted tree. The image at bottom right shows the rather asymmetrical nest as seen from below.

The nest diameter of the earlier nesting on July 2006 is 56 mm and depth 42 mm. The cup diameter is 42 mm. The nest is quite symmetrical. There are a lot of single strand silk, probably spider cocoon silk and larger blobs of probably spider’s web. The basal part has mosses incorporated. The nest lining is of fine fibre.

It would appear that the nest dimensions are slightly larger in the later nest. However, the earlier nest has more materials and appear stronger. Although the difference between the outer and inner diameter is about the same, the rim of the later nest is as thick as before but the nest wall proper is made up of less materials.

The conclusion by Yen Lau that the birds were not able to get enough nesting materials for their year-end nest is further confirmed.

Input by YC, nest provided by Yen Lau through the good office of KC Tsang. Images by YC except top right by KC.

Dragon’s tail

posted in: Plants | 6

Most of us are familiar with the money plant (Epipremnum aureum). This creeping plant with smallish leaves is a favourite indoor plant, usually placed in a container of water. However, when planted in the ground, the leaves can grow large indeed. The plant seldom flowers, if at all.

The dragon’s tail (Raphidophora korthalsii) is a close relative. It became popular some ten or more years ago when the local Chinese claimed that the leaves, boiled in water with rock sugar, made a healthy drink. There were many who claimed that the drink could cure various ailments. Suddenly each leaf cost a few dollars apiece and people began planting them. The plant grows rapidly, creeping along the trunk of trees or even walls. Even today, there are those who use the leaves to cure certain skin allergies.


I have a plant growing along the trunk of my Alexandra palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae). It was so unruly that I tried to kill it off. I lopped off portions of the stem from the palm trunk and peeled them off. But I was not able to remove the upper part of the stem. It kept growing, sending down aerial roots that entered the ground to obtain water and nutrients. Finally the plant flowered. And flowered regularly.

One day I noticed a few Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) feeding on the fruits (above). And apparently enjoying them. These birds are usually very shy, flying off whenever they noticed my presence. But not this time. They remained eating until they had their fill, allowing me to photograph them.

YC Wee
March 2007

Striped-Tit Babbler’s nest site

posted in: Nests | 4

On the morning of 25th February 2007, KC Tsang and wife Amy must have been feeling energetic. They took a long trek from Venus Drive car-park to the Ranger’s Station, and from there, to the Central Catchment area. Their walk paid off when they had a pleasant encounter with a pair of Striped Tit Babblers (Macronous gularis) actively building their nest within the dried resam (Dicranopteris linearis) thicket (below left).


What looked like a mass of dead leaves within the thicket was actually a meticulously constructed nest. It was perfectly camouflaged and if the birds were not seen building it, it would not be detected at all. In the middle of this mass was an entrance. Both birds were busy bringing pieces of dead palm fronds from a pile further down. And every minute or so one of the two birds would appear at the entrance, popped inside and deposited its piece. The moment one left, the other would appear with its piece of dried frond.

The whole morning that KC and Amy were there, the birds were busy lining their nest.

As KC said afterward,”From a photographer’s point of view, the nest site has no distinct unique feature, and to take pictures of the inside of the nest, I would have to borrow camera equipment that is being used for colonoscopy, to thread it through the fern thicket without having to cut a path to it.

“The nest is on the left of the picture, the whole place appears a mess. Well I guess it is a form of camouflage to not attract attention from predators.”

Striped-tit Babbler is supposed to be a common resident. Yet there is hardly any information on it. According to birder Alan OwYong, the last record of nesting was by Ong Kiem Sian many years ago. Our resident field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng says that “this is the earliest nest-building record in my database. There was only one other record in March 2004. A couple more in June and July. The nest is so difficult to spot.”

Image of nesting at top left by KC Tsang, that of the babbler in the nest (top right) is courtesy of Dr Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong – see comment.

Leaf bathing

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 4


It was raining on and off but never too heavy. I went to the back of the house to survey the plants around the backyard. There, perching on a bare branch of my curry-leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) was a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier). It was apparently enjoying the slight drizzle that was still on. It fluttered its body feathers, fanned out its tail and shook its body. It even raised its wings and indulged in some wet preening. It remained there for some minutes before it spotted me photographing it.

Then it flew off to a nearby kantan or torch ginger plant (Etlingera elatior) and enjoyed a leaf bath.

Leaf bathing is the term used when birds make use of the water droplets accumulated on large leaves to bathe. The water in this case came from the rain but it may well come from dew, condensed fog or even from the garden sprinkler or water hose.

Leaf bathing was first reported by L.F. Baptista. In 1971 he observed a Rufous-crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps) bathing on leaves of an eucalyptus in Berkeley, California. The leaves of the tree were covered with water droplets from a sprinkler that had been on earlier that morning. The sparrow would bend forward touching the wet leaves with the breast and belly, and flutter the wings rapidly. It continued this behavior for about three minutes, at which time its body feathers appeared quite soaked. The bird then flew to the ground beneath the tree, ruffled its feathers, preened, and scratched its head.

Locally, Serin Subaraj reported as early as November 2005 that Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) and Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) leaf bathed as soon as his grandfather finished watering the plants in the garden.

Johnny Wee has similarly observed Olive-backed Sunbird and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) (below left) bathing on the leaves of yellow simpoh (Dillenia suffruticosa). [NOTE: Apparently, this is a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma), not Scarlet-backed – see comment by Tou below.]


I myself have always witnessed sunbirds bathing on noni (Morinda citrifolia) as well as kantan leaves. They are regularly there after the rain, sometimes after the leaves become wet through watering. At one time I saw a Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) bathing on the elongated leaves of the orchid keng hua (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) after I watered the plant (above right). All these plants have large leaves that usually collect droplets of water, but I have yet to see leaf bathing on smaller leaves or a collection of smaller leaves.

I am sure other species of birds also leaf bathe and urge birders to keep a lookout and report back. If you have previously seen other birds leaf bathed, please submit your record in this blog.

Baptista, L. F. (1972). Leaf bathing in three species of emberizines. The Wilson Bulletin 85(3): 346-347.

Image by YC except Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker by Johnny Wee.

Eyelashes in birds?

posted in: Morphology-Develop. | 10


On 9th February 2007, Heng Fook Hai posted a close-up image of the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) and he noticed something he did not see before. So he posed the following questions:

“I seldom see birds with long eyelashs until my recent photo of the hornbill (left). I searched my other bird photos but did not find any other birds showing eyelashes. Is there other bird with such long eyelashs?

“I remember BESGroup did show a kingfisher with eye membrane to protect their eyes. Just curious what function do the eyelashes serve?”

This got me curious, so I looked up the relevant literature. It seems that these are actually bristles, highly specialised contour feathers in which the rachis or feather shaft lacks barbs. Such bristles are found at the base of the bill. Ornithologists term these rictal bristles. And rictal bristles are seen in many species of birds that catch insects, like nightjars (below), flycatchers, owls, swallows and hawks.


So what are the functions of rictal bristles? Some suggest that they help to funnel insects into the mouth, but this has no experimental basis. And what about the bristles around the eyes? There appears to be consensus that they protect the eyes from flying insects and other debris. Especially when the bird catches large scaly insects like butterflies and moths. Rictal bristles also help the bird to detect movements of insects held in the bill, just like the whiskers of some mammals.

Images: Fook Hai (hornbill) and Chan Yoke Meng Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus acrurus).

26 Responses

  1. kris

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

  2. Iwan

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

  3. Khng Eu Meng

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

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline:

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

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

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

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

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

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

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

  5. YC

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

  6. Firdaus Razak

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

  7. Chung Wah

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

  8. Geam Liang

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

  9. Lee Chiu San

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Lee Chiu San

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

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

  11. Geam Liang

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

  12. Lee Chiu San

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

  13. Geam Liang

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

  14. Lee Chiu San

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

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

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

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

  15. Geam Liang

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

  16. David Thackray

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

  17. Emily Koh

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

  18. Emily Koh

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

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

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

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

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


  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

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

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

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

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

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

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