Contributed by Seng Alvin. 25 May 2015.
The Malaysian Pied Fantail, Rhipidura javanica, was given the Malay name “murai gila” or Mad Thrush for its frantic feeding behavior and disjointed song. It is the only representative for this family in Singapore, found mostly in the mangroves in Singapore. A common resident, it builds a small conical shaped nest on a thin branch at eye level. Seng Alvin, a very keen bird photographer and nature lover found a pair at his backyard gathering nesting material. This was his chance to document their breeding behavior. He spent the next two months visiting and patiently photographing this pair until the successful fledgling of two healthy chicks today. Pied Fantails are known to foster Rusty-breasted Cuckoos but luckily for this pair it was their own. His photographic records from the very first day are detailed below.
I first noticed the adult gathering nesting material on the 17th (left). Two days later the lower part of the nest was firmly secured to the thin branch.
The nest took eight days to complete. It must be exhausting for the parents, having to gather spider webs and plant fibers and twisting them into a small cup. Most nests are at eye level and on the fork of a thin branch. This will discourage large predators from getting to the nest. Often it is above water out of reach from ground animals like feral cats and dogs. The parent was seen sitting in the nest (left) on 27 April incubating its eggs.
Incubation took a total of 16 days. Through rain and shine, the parents had to sit on the eggs to keep it warm. The first chick hatched on 12 May ( top left). The second chick hatched the very next day. This will give both a chance to grow up without an older and stronger chick killing the weaker one.
Six days old chicks (top left) was as hungry as ever. The eight days old chicks on the right with part of the primary feathers formed. Their eyes were still close.
The pair of 6 and 7 days old chicks were keeping the parents busy looking for insects to satisfy their huge appetite. I got this shot of one of parents bringing back a spider. As the chicks grew older and bigger, the parents will bring back butterflies and other bigger insects like dragonflies and moths for them.
11 and 12 days old (above). The nest seems to small for both of them. Time to move out to face the world.
25 May. Almost 2 weeks after hatching. they finally fledged and was able to move out of the nest. It will be sometime before they can venture out to look for food by themselves. So in the meantime, the parents will still have to feed them. I am so glad that this pair was successful in nurturing a new generation of Pied Fantails to grace our park.