Bee-eaters and pellet casting

posted in: Pellets | 2

Singapore has two species of bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) and Blue-throated Bee-eater (M. viridis). The former is a very common winter visitor while the latter is a common resident but a rather uncommon winter visitor. These birds, as their names imply, specialise on bees, often caught on the wing. They also eat other insects of the same hymenopteran group as well as other groups of insects. But they seldom eat ground insects.

The bird normally perches on a high vantage point where it can keep a keen lookout for flying insects. Once it spots an insect, it sallies forth, catching and bringing it back to its perch to be processed. This involves striking it against the branch to stun it and rubbing it against a hard surface to remove the sting and venom sac. Once the insect has been properly processed, it is tossed in the air and immediately swallowed.

Bee-eaters regularly regurgitate pellets containing the indigestible remains of the insects they eat. It has been reported that the fresh pellet is blackish and about 1-3 cm long.

In an earlier posting I mentioned witnessing a Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) regurgitating a pellet. Ardent birder, Cheong Weng Chun was quick to confirm, and so was Jianzhong Liu who sent an image of the bird in the act of pushing out a pellet from its mouth. By any account the image is awesome. I always find it interesting that photographers are the ones who notice and provide evidence of such details, not the normal birdwatchers. Why? Because photographers click, wait to click again and wait some more. And birders aim the binoculars, ID the bird and move away. The latter thus miss the most of the juicy aspects of bird watching. I have said before and I say it again. Birders should seriously think of becoming photographers…

In the meantime I have managed to obtain a series of images of the Blue-tailed Bee-eater caught in the act of casting a pellet. They are displayed here, courtesy of photographers Meng and Melinda Chan. Thank you both for agreeing to share with others your exciting series of images.

Meanwhile Jianzhong Liu has alerted me to a thread in a Taiwan forum on pellet casting by a shorebird.

Birds and glass windows – 2

posted in: Collision-Reflection | 8

Part 1 of “Birds and glass windows” gives the background to this interesting post. In Part 2 here, we continue the discussion from the rest of the interested birders on their personal encoounters.

Tian Soo has this to say: “Yesterday while reading your messages on birds and windows, a little Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) smashed right onto my window panel. It’s neck was twisted and died half hour later. Are they that aggressive when driving other birds away or does it simply thought the reflection on the window was clear blue sky? Now I can hear the other birds calling ‘CooCoo’ CooCoo’”

Yap Kim Fatt responded: “Birds don’t commit suicide unless driven by humans to do so. It is not uncommon for birds to fly into glass windows, either maim or kill themselves. It got misled by the transparent glass and tried to fly right through it. A long time ago, a water bird (don’t know name – it had long legs, long slightly curved bill, feathers off-white with brownish spots) flew into my glass window one evening, possibly attracted by the bright light and broke a wing. I nursed it back to health & let it go its merry way.”

Replied Tian Soo: “I think in my case the room is dark so it sees the reflection of the sky and continue its journey. If it sees itself as another bird I don’t think it will crash onto it at this force. Other birds peck at my window everyday. In KF’s case it cannot see the clear glass between the light and itself. I am curious. If they can make these mistakes, there should be lots of dead birds along Shenton Way and Raffles Place with all the tall buildings and glass windows.”

According to YC, birds apparently cannot recognise themselves in a mirror. So when a bird lands in front of a glass window with the background darkened, it sees its reflection. Thinking there is a rival in front of it, it batters against the window pane in an effort to dominate it. Come to think of it, Yellow-vented Bulbuls regularly peck on my bedroom windows.”

Ong Kiem Sian has this to say: “Usually when they fly into glass window it is because they cannot see it as a structure in front. I work in Raffles Place and often see the clouds/sky reflected on the big glass panels of the high-rise buildings. There were several cases of birds dying this way, hitting against building, becoming unconscious and died or somebody could rescue it if the injury was not too bad. I experienced years ago a cuckoo flying through my green chain link fence (not very high may be 5-6 feet high) and the bird got stuck, damaged its wings. Despite feeding and caring it finally died.

“When birds peck on windows or mirrors it is seeing its own image and not recognizing itself. Years ago when I walked home from work, an oriole used to fly to the side mirror of a car. It perched on it and looked at its own image and pecked the mirror. I never had time to go home and take my video. It happened several times and it always returned to the same car.”

The final word comes from bird specialist R. Subaraj: “Pecking at windows is more of a territorial behaviour and many birds do it. As for collision on glass, especially one way mirror windows during the day when the light is coming from the outside, this is a matter of the bird mistaking the reflection of the open space as clear passage. Fast-flying birds are particularly prone and both the escaping prey or attacking predator can meet with a similar fate. Night-flying migrants are particularly vulnerable to all the city lights and glass buildings…..many must crash into buildings at Shenton Way and other places but our army of super-efficient cleaners probably sweep them away before we have a chance to encounter the carcasses. There are many records of stunned, injured or dead birds found at buildings, homes and many were migrants. Some migrants reported or handed in to the bird park include pittas, Black-backed Kingfisher and bitterns.”

…and even the large Rhinoceros Hornbill (B. rhinoceros) is fascinated with its reflection.

We wish to thank Tian Soo, Yap Kim Fatt, Ong Kiem Sian and R Subaraj for their input. Images by YC.

Birds and glass windows – 1

posted in: Collision-Reflection | 4

On 27th February 2006, Philip Tatham wrote: “During the last three months, one, and now a pair of, Red-whiskered Bulbuls (Pycnonotus jocosus) visited our apartment block on Jalan Hang Jebat (off Portsdown Road) and spent hour upon hour, almost every day, pecking at our windows. There are six flats in the block and as far as I can tell, the bulbuls peck at all the windows of all the flats. At first we were very worried the birds were trying to get in so we had to switch off the ceiling fans but it seems the birds were only interested in their reflections and ignored the wide-open windows (unlike the mynas, who nest above the windows and perch on the window frames and windowsill all day long). Is this a territorial thing or a breeding matter? And are the Red-whiskered Bulbuls feral, escapees or lost?”

This posting attracted much attention from readers. Jeremy Lee reported seeing Yellow-vented Bulbuls (P. goiavier) attacking the side view mirror of a car. “Some years back a whole flight of starlings crashed into my window pane” he added. “It was a whole series of bangs that I had initially thought was thunder. When I saw the trail of saliva/blood on the window, I checked the flower pots outside the window and there were about eight birds lying on the ground. Only two were still alive and a bit dazed. The rest probably died on impact. Our windows are quite large and it is not difficult for the bird to mistake the reflected image for the real thing.

“The funny thing is that these birds get ‘tunneled’ when they are distracted. Especially for birds with their eyeballs on the side of the head (as in most non-predatory birds). In aviation terms…we call it CFIT…Controlled Flight Into Terrain. This is a situation when a perfectly flyable aircraft gets flown into the ground because the pilots are disorientated or distracted by some other issues in the cockpit.

“In a place like Shenton Way, the birds are probably out in the open and have a big view of what’s ahead. So they are more able to distinguish the glass from the overall picture of the environment ahead. In an environment where greenery is closely meshed with man-made stuff like large windows, things can be quite different.

“Imagine a bird dashing through familiar territory and is suddenly chased by a raptor or some other silly bird cuts into their path and they take evasive action, and then suddenly lock onto a nearby reflection for a safe flight path, they may just make a mistake that will cost them their lives.”

Patricia Thong wrote: “It is perceivable that birds mistake the reflection of the blue sky on windows and fly straight into them. I have observed Collared Kingfishers (Todiramphus chloris) flying into my neighbours’ windows on bright sunny days. Eventually, my neighbours had to place an “X” on their window using tape to prevent that.

“However, I have also observed an inexplicable behaviour by Collared Kingfishers that dived into the trunk of large trees at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Surely there is no confusion with reflection, whether of sky or self here. Has anyone else observed this behaviour or would like to suggest an explanation?”

(R Subaraj has this explanation: “As for the diving kingfishers at MacRitchie that crash into trees, I think that they are hunting for lizards or big bugs on the tree trunks and those that crash get it all wrong or more likely, get blinded by the sun before crashing.”)

Angie Ng has this to say: “I have witnessed this fascination by the male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) with its own reflection on my window panes too. It was just a month before I moved house. The FP kept flying at its reflection and wouldn’t go away. At times it stood at the bottom edge of the glass pane and ‘peered’ into our room; it often stayed for more than an hour each time! When I opened the window to invite it in, it hopped onto the sui mei (Wrightia religiosa) and then away. I did wonder if it knew we were leaving the place.

“My SBFP wasn’t crashing into the glass; it was flying/trying to get through. When it couldn’t, it stood waiting patiently and looking in. It could have been a dozen times trying since it was there when I woke up and still there when I had to leave to run my errands.

“Some years ago, I was entertained by a peacock apparently enjoying itself jumping up and attacking its reflection on a highly polished car. The parked car sustained some serious scratches from its claws; wonder if the driver knew who did it!”

Watch out for Part 2 where others join in the discussion.

Thanks to Philip Tatham for bringing up the subject and to Jeremy Lee, Patricia Thong and Angie Ng for participating in the discussion. Images by YC.

The mempat tree

posted in: Plants | 2

There is nothing like a mempat tree (Cratoxylum formosum) with its crown covered with new reddish pink growth and pale pink flowers to brighten a road. The tree fronting my house was leafless for about a week before it turned into an attractive tree just before Christmas last year. These trees do not shed their leaves together as each has its own schedule. A tree first sheds its leaves and remains leafless for days before the colourful new leaves slowly emerge together with the flowers. I have always admired the tree at this very stage. As the leaves expand in size they turn green and at the same time the flowers develop into fruits.

There are a few semi-parasitic plants growing on its branches. These round-fruited mistletoes (Macrosolen cochinch)nensis) are easily seen when the tree is leafless but with the leaves growing back, they can still be discerned if you look hard enough.

The crown of the tree is a hive of activities, the various fauna being attracted by the fruits of the mistletoe plants and the nectar-filled flowers of mempat.

The flowers of mempat as well as those of the mistletoes attract bees, butterflies and of course birds. Various sunbirds find the flowers of irresistible because of the nectar they exude. These include Crimson (Aethopyga siparaja), Olive-backed (Nectarinia jugularis) and Brown-throated (Anthreptes malacensis) Sunbirds. The Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) visit for the mistletoe fruits, the mempat nectar as well as the flowers.

The tree is also popular with Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier) that visit for the insects that are attracted to the flowers. These birds also eat the mempat flowers, probably for the nectar they contain. They are also attracted to the tree because of the mistletoe fruits.

Input and images by YC Wee.

Do birds recognise people?

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

Calvin Lo of Yishun posted a most interesting account in Club Snap that I have got his permission to have it posted in the blog.

“About a week ago, I managed to save a juvenile Long-Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) from the claws of the cat. Initially, I was worried that it would not survived because it continued to flutter carelessly to the ground quite often even though there were many cats roving the area.

“Fortunately, of late it grew wiser. Joeyao spotted it again and tried to approach it carefully with his camera, but this time it flew away before he got the chance to get near. Well, I was kind of sad that I would not be able to approach it so near any more.

“But yesterday evening, to my pleasant surprise, the little fellow appeared before me again. Instead of behaving skittishly as reported by Joeyao, it actually allowed me to move as close as 3m from it. In fact, for a while I was so near that I had to dismantle my tcon before the camera could focus properly. Managed to take about 10 over shots before it said goodbye to me. Don’t think it was due to evening because the light was still bright enough for it to see me very well.

“So…I’m just puzzled, Do birds recognise people?”

Calvin Lo, 28th February 2006. Image also by Calvin.

Our bird specilist R. Subaraj has this to say: “Pet birds including mynas seem to recognise their owners and many animals in the wild have been documented to recognise specific people. It would therefore be nice to believe that this is indeed the case here too. The moral of the story is….’Be Kind To Animals’ for they may truly appreciate you as a result. Well done Calvin!”

Tales of a Rhinoceros Hornbill

posted in: Hornbills | 6

Kwek Siew Jin, a member of the Nature Society (Singapore), had an exciting encounter with a Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) while out walking with a group of friends in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve one day. Below is Siew Jin’s account of the encounter:

“On 6th January 2006, our group of four hikers was on our normal weekly walk, this time going through the former turf club to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

“On reaching Senapang Road at about 11am, I noticed a pair of Greater Racket-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradisus) flying around in an agitated manner and heard a loud honking noise coming from the tree tops. Within a short while a big bird that I recognised as a hornbill (but not which one) flew across an open space in the forest, chased by the pair of Drongos. I was thrilled to see such a large and beautiful bird in our forest! I chased and caught up with the birds when the hornbill landed on a tree and began to eat the fruits from the branches.

“Taking photos of the bird from below the tree with the hornbill hopping around plucking fruits was not easy, especially in the low light and without a long lens and tripod. However, it was certainly an experience to see this beautiful bird and to hear its loud honking calls. I only identified it as a Rhinoceros Hornbill when I got home and looked it up in the bird guide book.”

Ong Hui Guan similarly wrote on 19th March 2006: “I read about your project in Nature News. I shot a picture of a Great Hornbill on 18 Dec 05 – the bird flew into Dairy Farm Estate late afternoon. It visited Dairy Farm Estate subsequently with a partner a few weeks later and the two birds also hung around Bukit Timah Hill for a while – not sure if it is still there”

Comment by YC: This species is an escapee that has been sighted on an off in Singapore for some years now. See here for other sightings and here for an account of its possible mate.

Input by Kwek Siew Jin and Ong Hui Guan, image by YC (top) and Siew Jin (bottom).

An excellent video of a male Rhinoceros Hornbill feeding its family sealed inside the nest cavity, filmed in Thailand by our very own Prof. Ng Soon Chye, can be viewed here.

Intelligent Little Herons

Con Foley was witness to the incident of the Little Heron (Butorides striatus) using pieces of bread visitors fed to ducks to fish at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and added: “A bit of googling reveals that this is a well known, documented and researched behavior, and Little Herons and their cousins in North America and elsewhere exhibit this behavior all around the world. They didn’t just learn it in Singapore, too bad. Actually, using bread is done because it is easily available in the Botanic Gardens, but they will use any small piece of leaf, bug, twig, etc, as bait to catch fish. From what I’ve read, Little Herons are one of the few “tool using” birds that will use a tool to accomplish a task. A bit more googling reveals that it has been reported that Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) also exhibit this behavior, although I haven’t seen it. At the Botanic Gardens my observation is that the juvenille bird would do this, but the adult wouldn’t be bothered. You can tell the birds apart by coloration.”

Hung Bun Tang wrote in on 14th Nov 2005: “It is exciting to know that someone has observed the baiting behaviour of the Little Heron. Thanks Subaraj and Jacqueline for sharing. I did a little search and found an article on “The feeding behaviour of North American herons.” The following paragraph from the article by JA Kushlan should be interesting – it mentions the baiting method of the Green-backed Heron (same as Littlie or Striated Heron, I believe).”

Stand or stalk feeding: In stand and wait a heron stands motionless in water or on land waiting for prey to approach. There are two basic postures. In upright posture the body is held erect, head and neck are fully extended angled away from the body. In crouched posture, the body is held horizontal to the perch or the water, legs are bent, and the head and neck are partially retracted. Upright stand and wait is epitomized by the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) while crouched stand and wait characterizes the Green Heron. Intermediate postures may also be used. Several variations of stand and wait behavior are recognizable. In bill vibrating, a heron in crouched posture stands with bill tip submerged in water and rapidly opens and closes its bill creating a disturbance that attracts prey. This behavior is probably what Buckley and Buckley (1968) called tongue flicking. In baiting, a heron feeding by stand and wait places bait in the water to attract prey to its feeding location. Lovell described the Green Heron as persistently returning bait to a position under its feeding perch. In standing flycatching, a heron using stand and wait behavior catches flying insects. In gleaning, a heron picks prey from objects above the ground or water.

Tang further added: “It should be interesting to record such behaviour of birds on video. I have seen someone using a digital camera with a video mode connected to a spotting-scope. What I have now is a digicam with a teleconvertor attached. Ong Kiem Sian’s setup (spotting-scope + video camera) is also inspiring. I really want to try out this “videoscoping” technique to capture bird behaviour in movie.”

Input by Con Foley and Hung Bun Tang, image by YC.

The beautiful bottlebrush trees

posted in: Plants, Sunbirds | 6

Bottlebrushes (Callistemon spp.) are endemic to Australia where there are about 25 species. These shrubs to small trees are popularly grown as garden ornamentals for their attractive flowering bunches that look like bottle brushes. These ‘brushes’ are made up of numerous small flowers conspicuous in their long stamens, each tipped with a golden anther. The botanical name, Callistemon, comes from the Greek word kallistos (most beautiful) and stemon (stamens).

A few species of bottlebrushs have been introduced into Singapore, grown in gardens and as wayside plants. These are all with red flowers. C. citrinus or common bottlebrush has upright branches while C. viminalis or weeping bottlebrush has branches that cascade down. Both have red flowers found at the tips of branches. There are other species with yellow and green flowers. The narrow leaves of these plants contain a fragrant aromatic oil that can be detected if they are crushed between the fingers.

Bottlebrushes are excellent bird plants. Their flowers secrete copious nectar that attract sunbirds, mynas and Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier).
The leaves are a favourite food of the caterpillars of an unidentified butterfly or moth that in turn serve to attract birds to these trees. However, unlike sunbirds, mynas and bulbuls, the Common Ioras (Aegithina tiphia) are attracted to the plant when it is in season because of the caterpillars. The caterpillars normally congregate at the ends of branches, weaving the leaves together to form a protective cocoon. This strategy is not always full proof, as can be seen from the image (second down) where the Iora was found using it’s beak to dig into the cocoon to get at the caterpillars.

Although bottlebrush trees are not indigenous to Singapore, they have been around long enough to attract wildlife. As such more should be planted in gardens, parks and along roadsides. These plants are also attractive in their shape and colourful flowers.

Input by KC Tsang and Johnny Wee; images of bulbul, iora and caterpillar by KC and of male Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectariniua sperata) (bottom) by Johnny.

The Little Heron at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Azmi Mohamed was at the Singapore Botanical Gardens on the morning of the 26th February 2006 when he came across the Little Heron (Butorides striatus) doing an unusual thing. “It was picking up pieces of bread and dropping the bread into the water. It appeared to be trying to lure fish within range for it to prey on. Most of the time the bread would be eaten by fish too large for it to prey on. Whenever the bread was eaten by a large fish, the bird would pick up another piece of bread and drop it into the water. I didn’t observe it catching any small fish successfully.”

Intrigued by the behaviour of this Little Heron, Azmi wanted to know whether anyone else observed this behaviour?

Jeremy Lee reported that he was there the last weekend and saw the same heron standing on a water lily leaf doing the same thing. But it did not manage to catch any small fish.

Robert Teo saw the Little Heron in the company of a White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) and some Lesser Whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna javanica) when visitors came to feed the ducks. But he did not see the bird using bread as bait to fish. Robert wonders whether this behaviour is natural or learned from watching the duck feed.

Hung Bun Tang wrote: ”It is well known that the crows are very clever birds. Little Herons, I have seen in a documentary, may just be as clever. They can bait fish. They observed people feeding ducks in a pond and noticed that fish were also attracted to the bread. So they picked up some tiny bits of bread from the ground and dropped them into water to lure the fish. It worked and they got an easy meal! Sometimes they used tiny insects as baits too.”

According to our bird specialist, R. Subaraj, the Little Heron is indeed using bread as bait to fish. This has been observed a few times before at the Symphony Lake, Singapore Botanic Gardens and several times at the Waterbird Lake, Jurong Bird Park. “This little fellow is certainly not “bird-brained” and I believe the key to success for this little chap is learning where to fish, with bait. At the open areas of the Symphony Lake, the larger fish would take all the bread but in the past, these herons have had more success catching smaller fish by placing it in shallower edges of the pond, usually in shady spots.”

Subaraj further added: “David Attenborough’s film crew was keen to film this a few years ago and contacted me but unfortunately the Bird Park’s lake was undergoing renovation then and it was not possible.”

Sharon Chan confirms Subaraj’s statement of the happenings at the Jurong Bird Park. She has this to say: “The pelicans and swans are fed on floating platforms. When they feed, some of the food falls into the water. This in turn attracts the attention of the fish. So you tend to see a lot of fish swimming around the floating platforms. When the swans move away, the Little Heron will stand by the edge of the platform staring intently into the water, looking for their food – the fish.

“There is usually a solitary bird at one platform, waiting for its prey. This is not restricted to the herons. The Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis), and Great White Pelican (P. onocrotalus) have taken this one step further. They actually scoop up some food from the tray and drop it into the water to draw the fishes to them. Then they will collectively dip their bills into the water and the fishing begins…”

In the next episode we will look at what Con Foley has to say after he went Googling – looking for information on this intelligent bird.

Contributed by Azmi Mohamed, Jeremy Lee, Robert Teo, Hung Bun Tang, R. Subaraj and Sharon Chan. Images by YC (top) and Azmi (bottom two).

Mixed marriages in birds

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 3

Ilsa Sharp from Perth, Western Australia, wrote on 21st February 2006: “I would like to ask whether anybody has encountered any ‘inter-racial marriages’ between different species of birds in Singapore, articularly between newcomer aliens and indigenous residents – and if so, are the offspring automatically infertile?

“This thought came to me because I was birding with Birds Australia’s Western Australian chapter last weekend, on a bush track following the Swan River in Perth, and our experienced leader introduced us to a cute partnership between a Galah (a pretty pink and grey parrot, Cacatua roseicapilla) and a Corella (white cockatoo-like parrot) of the species (Long-billed – Cacatua tenuirostris) that has invaded Western Australia from Australia’s eastern states. He said the birds had been together for 30 years already and had produced young, which were infertile.

“We stood and watched the unlikely pair feeding together on the ground for a while and they did indeed seem devoted to each other! Our leader was not sure which was the male, which the female, though he had seen the larger bird, the Corella, on the nest once.

Just intrigued to know what kind of mingling has been attempted in Singapore, if any.”

Our bird specialist, R. Subaraj replied: “Your Cockatoo mixed species pairing is most interesting. Particularly since the Galah is not an uncommon bird there and he/she should not have been short of partners.

“The current wave of thought in South-West Australia is that all birds of the three species of corella around Perth (Little, Long-billed and Western) are feral (originate from escapees). The natural populations of the first two species don’t come anywhere close to western Australia while the Western may have been native around Perth in the past but went extinct, so the current birds are considered feral. The native population is supposed to be further north of Perth. At least this is what I have read.

“If this is true, then the Long-billed Corella in the mixed pair may not have had a mate of the same species 30 years ago and paired off with the Galah.

“All reports that I have heard of with regards to mixed species pairing have the offspring being infertile. If they are fertile, then the two species involved must be subspecies rather than species.

“In Singapore, there have been records of Common/Javan Myna offspring with the bird being grey with a yellow eye-patch (Kang Nee pers. comm.). However, I cannot recall other strange pairings involving native species. At present, a lone female Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), who has been at Bukit Timah for more than a year, has apparently found a partner in the form of a female Great Hornbill (B. bicornis)… and they have been seen prospecting potential nest holes around Hindhede Quarry!”

Contributed by Ilsa Sharp and R. Subaraj. Top image of Tanimbar Corella and bottom of Rhinoceros and Great Hornbills by YC

Ilsa wrote on 25th April 2006: “Remember that posting I made earlier regarding ‘mixed marriages’ among birds – my original observation being the longterm relationship between a Galah and a Corella cockatoo in Western Australia? Well, sorry for the long lapse in time, but I have now got a photo of the happy couple, attached! For those who don’t know, the Galah is the pink and grey one, pretty but there are suspicions that the big white Corella may actually be the female! Thanks to WA birder Ted Cawley for the photo. Ilsa, Perth, Western Australia

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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