Category Archives: Bird behavior

Scaly-breasted Munia enjoying Algae.

Scaly-breasted Munia enjoying algae
 
by T.Ramesh 

Scaly-breasted Munias ( Lonchura punctulata) are common residents in Singapore and have two races  – the local fretensis with paler upper parts and the introduced topela with distinctive brownish upper parts.   The introduced species of topela are common along the grass patches of Changi Business Park (CBP) canal which is behind the CBP bus depot.

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During one of my regular birding walk along this  canal recently,  I noticed a thick layer of green algae had bloomed on the canal.   Algae are plants lacking roots, stems and leaves and they are widespread in terms of habitats.  Singapore with equatorial climate has algal abundance and richness with 1054 species recorded .
I observed a Scaly-breasted Munia  landed on the algae.  Generally they are gregarious in groups but foraging can be individual or in group .  Studies have established the economic consequences of joining other munias in two models :  i) Information sharing model and ii) producer-scourger model .
However,  here it was alone . It poked the slimy algae and pulled the strands out to munch.  It kept hopping on different parts of the algae and continued to feed while alertly looking around for any threat . I quote below Avery, ML ‘s observation in his research paper in 1975 on White-rumped Munia’s feeding behaviour  in Malaysia:
 “Field observations and stomach analyses showed that the munias ate rice and the green filamentous alga, Spirogyra, almost exclusively. The primary periods of algae eating occurred in January and June-August, coinciding with the munias’ two peak periods of reproductive activity, as determined by gonadal examination. Apparently munias on the study area ate Spirogyra as a source of protein to enable them to become physiologically ready for breeding, much as other tropical bird species eat insects .”
Ref: Diet and breeding seasonality among population of White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, in Malaysia by Michael L. Avery.
 Though this behaviour is observed in other countries, glad to video record this in Singapore .
Click on the link below for the video.
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Awesome Underwater Dive Catch of the Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

By Alan OwYong and Steven Wong.

This pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, are raising a family somewhere at the Toh Tuck area and have been fishing along the Pandan Canal for some time now. Both or one of them will perch in the mid canopy of the Albizia trees by the side of the canal either in the early morning hours or late afternoons looking out for any signs of life in the canal.

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Perched up in the mid canopy, looking down at the canal waiting for any movements in the water.

Many of the dives and catches have been well documented in a number of great action photos posted in various Facebook groups recently. All of them show them diving down from the perch and snatching a fish from the surface of the water before taking it back to the trees.

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Steven Wong’s photo of the Sea-eagle entering the water with both wings up. I had a photo of the eagle completely underwater with only the ripples to show on the surface. But deleted it off hand as it had nothing to show.

But on the morning of 21 March 2019, Steven Wong and I witnessed a dive catch we have not seen before. The eagle dived into the water and caught a catfish that was swimming beneath the water surface. At one stage the whole eagle was submerged under the water only to reappear out of the water like from out of nowhere.

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Struggling to get up after being fully submerged in the water.

To do this, the eagle must have an extremely sharp eyesight to see the catfish that was swimming well below the surface. Maybe the clearer water that day helped. Then it must continuously keep track the movement of fish as it was diving down from the perch.

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Relieved to have both wings clear of the water.

The hardest part must be when and where to plunge in as the fish was below the surface. It will first have to allow for the parallax as the fish was not where it is looking from above. It will also have to allow for the evasive action of the fish in the split second after it hit the water surface.

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It takes a lot of down force to lift off judging from the turbulence on the water surface, captured in this photo by Steven Wong.

After hitting the water the eagle will not be able to see the fish as its nictitating membrane will cover its eyes. It will depend on its speed, trajectory and self belief that it talons will somehow fall on to its target and grab it. It was interesting to see that it managed to grab hold of the catfish head instead of mid body. It must be aiming for its head right from the start so that it will still get the other parts of the body if it miscalculate the strike. This hunting technic must have been learnt from the many failures in the past.

 

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Determination written all over its face as it tried to drag it catch off the water.

Reversing its flight after the catch had to be another feat of power, using its wings to stop it going deeper and then pushing it back up to the surface. From the shots it took the eagle quite a few second to get airborne partly due to the size and weight of the catfish. We were happy to witness this hunting behaviour and add to the knowledge of these fish eagles in our midst.

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Success and food for the chicks today. It will eat the top half of the fish on the Albizia tree before taking the tail end back to the nest.

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Aiming for the head gave the fish eagle some margin of error.

Many thanks to Steven Wong for spotting the eagle that morning and generously sharing his local knowledge of the hunting behaviour of this pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles.

Pacific Reef Egret fish sorting behaviour?

Pacific Reef Egret fish sorting behaviour?

By Yeo Seng Beng.

On Sunday 7th October 2018, at 5 pm in the evening, I observed a Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) dark morph catching fish at low tide off Singapore’s West Coast Park.  The egret was positioned where a large monsoon drain with a continuous flow of water connects to the sea.  I suspect small fish congregate here because the drain water carries food into the sea.

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As it was low tide, the sea was quite shallow, and the egret easily caught 4 fish during the 25 minutes that I was observing it.  What was interesting was how the bird handled the fish, depending on the size of the fish.

The smallest fish, the egret ate immediately.

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The largest fish, which the bird was unable to hold on to, escaped within a few seconds.

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But the 2 intermediate sized fish, the egret surprisingly did not eat straight away, but placed the fish on dry land up on the bank of the monsoon drain, presumably to wait until the fish became less active.

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In the meantime, the egret would return to the sea to catch more fish.  But if the fish it left on dry land, started to flip or jump too vigorously, the egret would return to the bank to check on, or watch over these fish.

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Unfortunately, I did not have time to wait to see what the egret finally did with the fish it left on the bank, but one assumes after all the hard work to catch and monitor the fish, the egret would eventually eat the fish as delayed gratification!

Here is a 3 min video demonstrating how the egret handled the 4 fish it caught.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/sucii0jd84rdiid/PRE%28eating-stabilised%20quiet%29.mts?dl=0

 

 

Wood Sandpiper feeding behaviour

Wood Sandpiper feeding behaviour.
T. Ramesh.
T Ramesh
Wood sandpipers ( Tringa Glareola) are uncommon migrants to Singapore . When they migrate they prefer to be at shallow freshwater wetland. They feed on aquatic insects, worms, spiders, shellfish, small fish.
On 23- Sep-2018, I spotted a lonely wood sandpiper along the construction site at Kranji Sanctuary Golf course .  It caught a small fish and kept poking at it while bobbing its tail continuously. I noticed the bobbing was intense when its head was down ( See video link below). In between, it washed its prey at the puddle of water few times. Once prey was swallowed , it drank water from the puddle  as if to gulp it down the throat .
Probably it was it’s first meal of the day Satisfied with its breakfast the Wood Sandpiper walked off daintily.

Pollination disrupted by Rose- Ringed Parakeets.

Pollination disrupted by Rose-ringed Parakeets. 

By T.Ramesh

I recently observed and video recorded the feeding behavior of Rose-ringed parakeet at Changi Business Park canal.  Rose-ringed Parakeets also known as Ring-necked Parakeet is an uncommon introduced resident .  Their diet generally includes fruits, berries, vegetables, buds, nuts, and seeds.  A  female Rose-ringed Parakeet flew and perched on to a Tabebua rosea with white Trumpet flowers.  It nicely plucked one  flower , sucked its nectar from the bottom  and dropped the flower . It continued this process of plucking &  sucking nectar from seven  such flowers .  I was curious to understand more about this behavior and researched online.

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Parakeets feed on nectar  only if other food listed above is in short supply .  Some plants in Amazon & Tasmania do attract certain  parakeets & parrots ( Golden winged Parakeets in Amazon & Swift Parrots in Australia) to feed on its nectar and rely on them for pollination. These birds have both physical and behavioural  adaptation for nectar feeding and tend not to destroy the flowers.  They provide pollination services through their  pollen-laden beaks.

However, in case of Rose-ringed parakeets , I noticed they do not have adaption for nectar feeding and hence simply pluck and suck the nectar from the flowers and while doing so disrupting  food & the process  of other pollinators.

Reference Parrots: The animal answer guide by Matt Cameron.

Thanks to Angie Ng for the tree identification,

Asian Koel Raids Pied Triller’s Nest.

Pied Triller’s nest raided by an Asian Koel.

I chanced upon the nest of a pair of Pied Trillers Lalage nigra on an Ordeal Tree Erythrophleum suavolens along one-north Crescent during my evening walk early this August . It was a cup shaped nest about 10 cm in diameter stuck between the fork of two thin branches near the canopy. The two chicks must have hatched a few days ago. Both parents were busy bringing back insects and caterpillars to the chicks.

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I went there to check on their progress two days later and witnessed a heartbreaking incident. A male Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea flew in and went straight to the nest. It must have been watching this nesting for some time.

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The Koel attacked and pecked at the chick which clung on to the nest. As the Koel pulled the chick out, the nest was came off the branch too. The Koel then shook the chick violently by its neck several times until it went limped. It dropped the chick and the nest to the ground instead of eating it. I think it was trying to take over the nest by getting rid of the chicks but destroyed the nest while doing so.

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The parents came back after the attack and was totally confused to find the nest gone and the chicks nowhere in sight.  They went up and down the branches frantically searching for the chicks for some time, gave up and flew away.

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The first chick had no chance. It was dead before it hit the ground.

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But surprisingly the other chick survived the attack and fall with a few ruffled feathers.

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I picked up the nest and wedged it by the trunk of the tree a few meters above the ground and left the chick there. At least it will be safe from feral predators. I stayed around for a while but the parents did not show up. Next morning I found it back on the ground. It must have fallen out of the nest during the night.

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I decided to tied the nest on a low twig near the ground and put the chick back in. By now the chick had not been fed for more than 24 hours. It was chirping and calling for its parents. Luckily the parents heard the calls this time round and came back. I experienced the most wonderful moment when the daddy found the chick. They were so happy being reunited!

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I was also happy to see the parents resumed feeding the chick.

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The mummy was more concerned and hang around to make sure junior was safe. She did not want to lose another chick again.

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The chick was strong enough to climb up the tree with the help of some flapping. It seemed to know that it had a better chance of surviving if it moved up to the safety of the dense foliage above.

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Next morning I found the chick resting at the mid storey of the Tembusu and the parents still feeding it. Now I was sure that this chick would survive.

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PS. The Asian Koel is an invader species to Singapore. There were no previous records of its destructive behaviour. In fact they were attributed for helping to control the crow’s population here by parasitizing their nesting. This may be the first time such an aggressive behaviour has been recorded. I would like to hear if there were other such attacks seen here or elsewhere.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore). 

 

 

 

Zebra Dove Courtship Ritual.

Zebra Dove Courtship Ritual.

by T.Ramesh

I was returning from my morning birding walk in Simei when I noticed two Zebra Doves frantically jumping at each other on the middle of a small road . I thought they were fighting and was curious and started video recording.

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The doves flapped their feathers and jumped at each other several times (around 34 +jumps not sure how many before my observation ). One of them probably a male sometimes pecked the other with its beak before jumping. After several energy rounds of flapping & jumping, they started bowing their head at each other elegantly while raising and fanning their tails accompanied by cooing in reply. They did this four times and then continued with flapping and then again bowing ritual.

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It seemed one of them was not interested for some reason even though the other Zebra tried to continue with bowing. No further preening or mating was observed . Then they walked different directions.

This has to be a courtship ritual because of the bowing, tail fanning and cooing, but it is also one of the more violent ones I have seen.

Tree Nest Hole for Rent at Pasir Ris Park. II

Tree nest hole for rent at Pasir Ris Park II, by Seng Alvin.

After the bees left, the tree hole lay vacant for a few weeks. On 14 May, I was surprised to find a pair of Laced Woodpeckers back at the nest. Based on the tags on their legs it was the same pair of woodpeckers that were being chased out by the Red-breasted Parakeets last month. Maybe they were not able to find any suitable hole nest anywhere else or they really like the location and ambience of the park. Whatever is the reason I was happy to see them back. They seemed to be incubating their eggs which meant that another generation of woodpeckers will be gracing the park.

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Five days later, I went to check on their progress. I saw a head popped out of the tree hole. I was expecting to see the woodpecker coming out, but it was a baby monitor lizard instead, much to my dismay. This tree hole had to be the most desired hole nest in the park. Both the parents did their best to chase the lizard off for over an hour but to no avail.

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My guess is that the monitor lizard must have sniffed out the eggs in the nest and did not want to pass up a good meal. Again this is nature, each species is part of the food chain. I came back two day later to see if the woodpeckers will try again to use the nest, but looks like “game over” for them.

 

Tree Hole Nest for rent at Pasir Ris Park.

Tree Hole Nest for rent at Pasir Ris Park.

By Seng Alvin.

On 16 January 2018, I was on my routine morning birding walk along the mangroves at my back yard Pasir Ris Park, when I heard pecking coming from the tree nearby. It was a pair of Laced Woodpeckers excavating a hole on the tree trunk for their love nest. I was happy to see this as the last nesting here was in March 2015. For the next few days, the mummy woodpecker spent many hours hard at work at the nest hole.

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On 23 January, when I went to check in the progress, I was surprised to find that a Red-breasted Parakeet at the nest hole. There were no signs of the woodpeckers. Parakeets also used tree cavities for their nests. Since they cannot excavate tree holes, the next best thing to do is to take over existing holes.

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Fortunately or unfortunately, this tree hole was too small for the parakeet and they could not use it. But this did not stop the parakeets from coming back during the next few days to check on the tree hole. The Laced Woodpeckers were nowhere to be seen. It may be that the parakeets were too aggressive for the woodpeckers and they prefer not to pick a fight with them.

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Both the parakeets and woodpeckers went missing for a while, until 26 February when the parakeet came back again to check if the hole got any bigger. It was still too small for it and it finally gave up. A little later that day I was happy to see the male Laced Woodpecker back at the hole. Will they now decide to use the hole to nest this time?

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March and April came and went, but the both species seemed to abandon this tree hole. Did the woodpeckers find better location somewhere? Was there something they don’t like about this particular tree hole?

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My conclusion is that this is one of the mysteries of nature and we just have to accept it.

 

 

 

A Brief Encounter with Buffy.

Our brief encounter with the Buffy Fish Owls at Singapore Botanic Gardens.  
by Henrietta Woo.

Observers: Goh Pei Shuan, Henrietta Woo, Ong Ruici

Date: 21 Mar 2018

Time: From 1918 hours till nightfall

Location: NParks HQ, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Pei Shuan and I had just left the office and were making our way to the Evolution Garden when two large-sized birds abruptly landed in the tree above us while calling. We thought it might be the Red Jungle Fowls, but turning the corner, the birds revealed themselves to be Buffy Fish Owls. Both continued to vocalise, one more so frequently than the other, uttering a relatively soft “yiiii” (like a squeaky chair, for lack of a better description) each time. The other owl answered sporadically with a louder and harsher “yiooorhhh”. I am guessing that the former is a subadult; the plumage differences seem rather minute, however. Both kept close to each other.

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While this was happening, Ruici who was at Botany Centre observing the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher immediately rushed over and joined me about 5 minutes after Pei Shuan left. At this time, the owls had become more active, flying across the path to another tree and calling more frequently. The pair thereafter flew across the carpark, to the trees directly in front of the HQ, where we observed was a third owl. Soon after, two of the owls flew across the carpark one after the other back to the Evolution Garden. One of them was carrying a small branch/large twig from the Araucaria tree it had been perching in. The two owls in the Evolution Garden started to vocalise, seemingly coaxing the third individual (subadult?) to join them.

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I had my camera (thankfully!) with me, and managed to squeeze off a few shots before night fell. We also were able to take a few recordings of the owls vocalising and will eventually upload onto xeno-canto. This brief encounter with these Buffy Fish Owls while unexpected was most exhilarating! 

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