“Two Pairs of Young Kings”

Observation Records of Juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfishers and White-Throated Kingfishers

Text and photos by Veronica Foo

The months of April and May provide many opportunities to see young birds.

On 15th April 2021 during a walk at Kranji Marshes with Kwek Swee Meng, I chanced upon a pair of juvenile White-throated Kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis) perched on a rail by a drain with an adult. The White-throated Kingfisher is a common resident in Singapore. It is polytypic and the subspecies in Singapore is the perpulchra. Both juveniles had darkish bills and some vermiculation on their throat and breast areas.

The adult was seen diving down to the drain once and returning to the rail without any catch. Subsequently, one of the juveniles dived and returned to the rail seemingly without a catch. These birds feed on fish, small amphibians and insects.  It was suggested that the juveniles were probably attempting to learn to feed.  The adult bird subsequently flew off, followed by the 2 juveniles one after another.

The Adult White-Throated Kingfisher with two juveniles.

The remaining juvenile White-throated Kingfisher that eventually flew off

On 4th May 2021, during a walk at MacRitchie Reservoir with Lim Kim Keang, two birds swooped to a tree in front of us followed by another larger bird a few seconds later. The two obscured birds were making calls to each other. They subsequently flew to different trees on the opposite side of the reservoir boardwalk where we had a better view of them. They were the uncommon resident Stork-Billed Kingfishers (Pelargopsis capensis), our largest Kingfisher species in Singapore. Rarely do we see a juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfisher lest a pair of them? This species is polytypic and the ones resident in Singapore is the subspecies malaccensis.

Both juveniles had brown crowns, head-sides and napes, brown vermiculation on their breasts, darkish bills unlike the bright red in adults.  These kingfishers feed on fish and crabs but the juvenile birds did not attempt to dive to fish nor were they fed by the adult.  The juveniles continued making calls while the adult remained perched on a different tree. The birds eventually flew off into the forest.

Pictures of the two juvenile Stork-billed Kingfishers

The adult Stork-Billed Kingfisher perched and overlooking the reservoir water.

Based on this observation, the Stork-Billed Kingfishers were probably looking for better hunting grounds.

Documentation of nesting and breeding records of Kingfishers especially that of Stork-Billed Kingfisher are very scant. These two confirmed breeding records add to the knowledge of our resident kingfishers. Based on a previous record by Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay on the nesting and breeding record of Stork-Billed Kingfisher can be read on this link.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/nesting-and-breeding-record-of-stork-billed-kingfisher-in-singapore/ . The juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfisher photographed by Marcel Finlay on 4 July 2017 has a darker bill base with some red towards the tip. This juvenile may be of a younger age than the two that were observed recently.

Stork-billed Kingfisher calling

Kingfishers generally dig and build nests in river-banks, decaying trees or termite nests in trees in obscurity.  From the above observations and sightings, we can deduce that these two kingfisher species are building nests here. Their successful nestings that resulted in these four juveniles is a positive occurrence and we hope for their continuous survival with records of their sightings.

REFERENCES

1.Lim, K.S. (2009). The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 

2.Wells, D.R. (1997). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Academic Press.  

3. Yong, D.L., Lim, K.C. and Lee T.K. (2017). A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy.

4. Craig Robson (2016). Birds of South-East Asia (Concise Edition).

5. Nesting and Breeding Record of Stork-Billed Kingfisher by Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/nesting-and-breeding-record-of-stork-billed-kingfisher-in-singapore/

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