“In mid-January 2018, it was an absolute delight to document the nest-hole excavation by a dedicated pair of Laced Woodpeckers (Picus vittatus) see LINK. And so in early February, I returned to the same site with eager anticipation and the prospect of monitoring the progress of their breeding attempt.
“But to my utter dismay and disbelief, I was greeted with the sight of Red-breasted Parakeets (Psittacula alexandri) instead (above)!
“The favourite resting perch of the meek male Woodpecker was now usurped by a proud parakeet (above)! And another was rudely poking its posterior out of the nest-hole below (below)!
“Video clips of these bold and brash parakeets inspecting the nest-hole and occupying the perch may be previewed below:
“It’s such a pity that after all the time and effort that the industrious woodpeckers had invested into carving out their potential breeding cavity, this nest-hole had been brazenly taken over by another bird species. A pertinent reminder of the sometimes unpredictable and often under-studied inter-specific interactions that can occur within small habitats.”
“The Macaranga bancana fruits will almost always attract the near threatened (Red Data Status) Red-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes rhodolaemus). Apart from this fruit I have seen them feed on the nectar of a number of a Mistletoe species. Having watched on nesting recently, young are also brought animal prey.
“Images 1-4 are of females. I have images of the more wary male but would like to focus on the female plumage:
1. The female is said by a number of sources (Helm Identification Guide on Sunbirds 2001 & HBW 2019) to have an eye-ring but, having seen quite number, they are better described as eyelid-rims; the lower eye-lid rim being much large then the upper (see Image 2). Wells (2007) also states eyelid-rims.
2. Another feature not mentioned in the female is the throat which is tinged orange (see Image 3). This can only been seen in good light and is present in some of the OBI images.
3. A third feature is the “speckled effect’ (see Wells 2007) on the cap and even the mantel (not mentioned).
“The Macaranga bancana fruits twice a year and attracts a large number of bird species. I have seen more than 25 species visit this tree. I had an opportunity to watch a large number of birds feeding today including a number of sunbirds. Birds will actively and competitively search for fruit from early in the morning (before 7am) until that days’ supply is exhausted by frantic feeding (usually by 9am). Macaranga bancana is the opiate of the birds.
“The Sunbirds and Spiderhunters that I have observed feeding on the Macaranga bancana fruit include:
1. Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum
2. Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
3. Red-throated Sunbird Anthreptes rhodolaemus
4. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis
5. Brown-throated (Plain-throated) Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
6. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta
7. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys
8. Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster
9. Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
In January 2013, Johnny Wee encountered a few Asian Openbills (Anastomus oscitans) at Seletar West Link – see HERE. This was probably the first record for Singapore.
This time around the openbills arrived at least by more than a thousand, according to field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng.
Risk Koh recorded on video more than a hundred feeding at Kranji Marshes on 14th December 2019. The video was taken from KM Tower which gave him some shelter from the rain (see below).
Resident in India, Sri Lanka to Thailand, these Asian Openbills have been migrating southwards since a few years ago. A cold front forced them to fly south in search of food. Up to a thousand birds were seen in Perak, Malaysia in 2013, believed to have flown from south Thailand LINK. And since then they are common in Peninsular Malaysia LINK. Now they have arrived in Singapore.
Asian Openbills feed mainly on Golden Apple Snails LINK.
Risk Koh & Wang Luan Keng
15th December 2019
“The Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) used to be an uncommon migrant to Peninsular Malaysia. The ‘A Checklist of the birds of Malaysia Dec 2016(v2)’ lists the Little Cormorant as a rare migrant to the peninsular.
“Summary of selected observations of numbers over time:
1. For the 1980s Wells (1999) states of them: ‘handful of sightings on the Malaysian West-Coast…’
2. In 2007 & 2009 sightings in Langkawi, Kedah as wells as 2007 in Bidor, Perak (Source: A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Allen Jeyarajasingam).
3. In 2009 sighting at Marang River, Terengganu (Source: Malaysian Nature Society-Bird Conservation Council Records Committee, 2000-2013).
4. In 2011 Lim Kim Chye & Lim Swee Yian saw a single bird in Taiping, Perak.
5. In 2012 Connie Khoo, Eve Tung & I saw a single bird for an extended migration period (2012-2013) in the Tambun Interior ex-mining pool area, Ipoh, Perak.
6. On 10th August 2013 I reported 12 migratory birds in one extended wetlands location near Malim Nawar, Perak (source: Amar-Singh HSS. Observation of increased migration of the little cormorant in Peninsular Malaysia. Suara Enggang. Vol 21, No. 4, December 2013).
7. Since that time many of us in Perak have seen flocks of increasing size, with growing numbers of resident birds throughout the year. Chiu Sein Chiong posted a video in February 2018 of 40-50 birds at Malim Nawar wetlands site. In November 2018 I saw 90-120 birds. In the past year we have been seeing flocks of 200-300 birds. The resident birds are supplemented by migrants and birds born locally.
“The Little Cormorant is not known to nest in Peninsular Malaysia. David Wells (recent personal communication, July 2019) says ‘I don’t recall any previous definite nest record south of the Thai border.’ I have personally not read of any reports of nesting locally.
“Summary of selected observations of nesting behaviour & nests over time:
1. I first observed Little Cormorants collecting nesting material on February 2014.
2. Initial single birds with nesting material were seen. Then over the next few years increasing number of such observations (6 occasions) with many birds involved. I also had a suspicion as to the location of the main nesting site.
3. By 2016 I had confirmed the nesting site. I was concerned as mal-development nearby threatened the nesting site. But (fortunately) access is extremely difficult and hence it has been preserved. Due to the inaccessibility optics are also poor.
4. I returned today to continue observations. I can now confirm that there are more than a 100 birds roosting here and more than 50 birds involved in nesting activities (actual number of nests hard to determine/see well, but I estimate at least 30).
“The nesting site is a ‘heronry’ with many Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea jouyi), Black-crowned Night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea manilensis) and other waterbirds (including Egrets) nesting at the same locality. It is a large clump of trees with both bare branches and dense foliage (many of the trees were the Yellow Acacia). Acacia auriculiformis (Yellow Acacia) originated from Australia and Indonesia and is a fast growing tree (popular roadside tree planted in Malaysian in the 1970s and 1980s). It can be found growing wild on poor quality soils like ex-mining land. The Little Cormorants appear to prefer the dense foliage locations for nests. During a brief visit today I saw more than 40 birds bringing nesting material. The predominant nesting materials were sticks/twigs, but they also brought leaves. Nesting material is not collected from the nesting site.
“The breeding period is varied in different locations: July to September in Pakistan and northern India, November to February in southern India, December to May in Sri Lanka, May to October in Bangladesh, January to May in Sumatra. Robson reports breeding in Southeast Asia from October to June. I have observed nesting in both July and December.”
Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Wetlands, ex-mining ponds
1. Wells, D.R. (1999) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines). Christopher Helm, London 2. A Checklist of the birds of Malaysia Dec 2016 (v2) 3. Orta, J., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Little Cormorant (Microcarbo niger). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive 4. Muhammad Iqbal, Chairunas Adhaputra, Mistar Kamsi, Desy Hikmatullah. First Confirmed Breeding Records of Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger in Sumatra. Short Communication. Kukila 17 (1) 2013 5. Robson, C. (2002). A Field Guide to Birds of South East Asia. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd
A Tanimbar Corella (Cacatua goffini) was caught on video in a 20m tall Starfruit Tree (Averrhoa carambola). As there were no close-up images of the corella, what it was doing there cannot be confirmed. Was it eating the leaves or even the flowers? After all the tree was in full bloom (below).
And birds do eat flowers because of the nectar found within LINK. And there is an earlier post of a bulbul eating starfruit flowers.
However, on examining the video by KS Leow (below), it could be vaguely seen at 0:09 that a corella was using its foot to grab at something. This is exactly how a parrot grabs a starfruit to eat it as seen in an earlier Blue-rumped Parrot (Psittinus cyanurus) feeding on the starfruit (above).
Tanimbar Corella is an untidy eater of these fruits as it remove chunks of the flesh to get at the seeds inside LINK.
“The structure of the iris of the Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) has always fascinated me (above). It has a pigmentation posterior to the pupil and I have wondered about its function if any. Wells (1999) states ‘iris yellow with dark mark fore and aft of the pupil’.
“I have only observed clearly a mark posteriorly (consistent) and occasionally a faint mark anteriorly (not consistent). This is also present in the Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) and Von Schrenck’s Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus). Wells (1999), when describing the Von Schrenck’s Bittern, says ‘dark mark fore and aft of the pupil as in other Ixobrychus species’. But I have not been able to appreciate it in the commonly seen Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis).
“In addition the pupil is more elliptical than circular (some describe is as ‘barrel-shaped’ or ‘bar-shaped’) – better seen when in bright light.
The image above shows that when the bird has the neck stretched out (‘elongated position’), dark feather between the neck and body can be seen. This is not seen well when in crouched (‘squat-position’) (below).
“Handbook of the Birds of the World (2019) says ‘tuft of loose black and dark brown feathers at base of neck’. The IUCN-SCC Heron Specialist Group states ‘a tuft of loose black and dark brown feathers on the side of and at the base of the neck is expansible for display’.
“Asian Openbills (Anastomus oscitans) are common birds in Peninsular Malaysia after their mass movement south some years back. Any visit to the Perak wetland areas will witness 200-400 birds. I had, in the past, erroneously assumed that birds that are darker (greyer) were immature. However, on this visit more than 70% looked ‘greyer’.
“I looked at Hancock et al (2010) for some guidance and they state:
“’Adult plumage is predominantly white, with black in the wings and tail. The bill is a dull greenish-horny colour, mottled and streaked with black and reddish …. Before the onset of breeding, probably through a moult, the greyish plumage becomes immaculate white and the black feathers take on an iridescent purplish green. The white changes back to grey soon after the eggs are laid, in a process not well understood, presumably through feather wear and/or soiling.’… ‘Immature birds are a darker grey than adults and the head and neck are browner; they have a blackish brown mantle, wings and tail. The legs and feet are pale horn colour (often streaked with white droppings). The short bill is dark and has little or no gap until the bird is approximately 4-6 months old.’
“Kazmierczak (2000) states ‘juvenile much greyer and initially without the bill opening’. Grimmett et al (2011) state ‘largely white (breeding) or greyish-white (non-breeding) ….. juvenile has brownish-grey head, neck and breast, and brownish mantle ….’
“The four different birds I am posting here all have less than ‘pure’ white plumage and are speckled grey. They all have an open bill, suggesting that they are not juveniles.
“However, the ones shown above and below have some brown in the neck. The bird above has a wing moult in progress.
“A close look at the bill in the above two birds shows them to be lighter and flacking off (?moult – if we can use this for bills). Wonder if these two can then be called immature? A higher resolution close up of the bill in bird above (see below) shows the bill ‘moult’ (for lack of a better word).”
Location: Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Wetlands, Padi Fields
1. James Hancock, James A. Kushlan, M. Philip Kahl, Alan Harris, David Quinn. Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the World. Helm Identification Guides. 2010. 2. Krys Kazmierczak. A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent 2000 (paperback copy printed 2008). 3. Richard Grimmett, Tim Inskipp, Carol Inskipp. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. 2nd edition 2011.
“While strolling along a secluded mangrove boardwalk, a female suddenly caught my eye (as they sometimes do).
“I cautiously zoomed in on her (with my camera) and verified that she was a Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus) engaged in excavating a nest-hole (below).
“In between bouts of chiseling away at the hole, she would also stick her head in to scoop out the wood chips.
“Video clips of this energetic female may be previewed here:
“After some time, she moved away from the nest-hole to rest, and perhaps summoned her husband to come help out with the household chores. Moments later, the responsible male showed up (below). After a brief inspection of his wife’s progress, he resumed the excavation efforts diligently.
“A video clip of this male at work may be previewed here:
“As dusk approached, it was time for a well deserved rest and the male would perch silently on a branch just above the nesthole, awaiting the sunset (below).
“A video clip of the male in quiet contemplation may be previewed here:”
“I saw these two Lesser Coucals (Centropus bengalensis javanensis) together, which is unusual as they are often solitary. I am trying to decide if they are adults in non-breeding plumage or juveniles (or one of each or subadults) as they can be very similar. Cuckoos of the World, by Johannes Erritzøe, Clive F. Mann, Frederik P. Brammer and Richard A. Fuller. Helm, 2012 states and illustrates some of the differences (see table below):
“The images at the top and above are the same bird (Bird 1) and the two images below is another accompanying bird (Bird 2).
“I am of the opinion that Bird 1 is a juvenile moulting into an adult non-breeding plumage. See especially the tail that has mixed features of a juvenile and adult.
“Bird 2 had a much shorter tail and was in moult (especially tail) with some black on the breast. This appeared to me to be an adult in moult and transforming into non-breeding plumage.
“This I think explains why they were together – a late stage juvenile with the supportive adult.