Category Archives: Breeding ecology

Oriental Pied Hornbills Nest Moving?

Contributed by Connie Khoo.

On 21st April 2017, I was birding around the limestone hills in Ipoh when I saw a pair of large birds, which I thought were eagles or owls, flying and landing on the cliff sides. But it turned out to be a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills instead. When I zoomed in with my scope, I was shocked to see that the male was carrying an egg in its beak. It then carried the egg into a big cavity after the female had inspected it. They both came out after a short while and flew off together. I was thinking that they may have stolen some other bird’s egg and hiding it there as I have seen this pair on this side of the cliff before.

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In less than 3 minutes, both flew back again with the male was carrying another egg in its beak. They are moving their nest! I was stunned! They were also surprised to find that someone was watching them moving their eggs to a “safer” place.

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A week later on 28th, I saw the male holding a feather outside the nest for a while before flying off. The female was no where to be seen. While both were away Rock Pigeons, Asian Glossy Starlings, Eurasian Tree-sparrows and Jungle Mynas were hanging outside their nest.

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On the 30th morning I went back to check on them. I saw the male flying back to the cavity alone calling loudly, rested for two minutes and then perched on a branch nearby. It later flew back to the “nest”, stay inside for a minute or two and flew off to the Durian plantation across the road. I thought that it may be carrying the eggs back to its previous nest but I cannot see any eggs in its beak.

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I returned in May and June weekly to check on their progress, spending a few hours each time. Unfortunately they were not around anymore.  I cannot draw any conclusion from this observation except that they are removing its eggs from one nest to another place, which turned out to be a cliff cavity instead of a tree hole.

Alan Kemp’s commented:

How exciting!!! I have never heard of any hornbill removing its eggs from a nest and placing them in another cavity elsewhere, especially unexpected, except at the very start of incubation, since the female thereafter should begin her flight feather moult and so become flightless. I did received one unpublished report of this species very likely using a cavity in a limestone cliff in southern China for nesting (that I included in my 1995 book), and several other hornbill species, including Great Hornbill, have been reported nesting and sealing up cliff cavities. Obviously you will continue to watch your site to see if anything develops (although the cavity does to look a good one to try and seal), and it would be lucky if you could try and guess and/or find the original cavity from where the eggs were taken (and if it was in a tree or in another cliff site).

The eggs size and colour looks like it is their eggs, rather than from some other bird’s nest that they may have robbed. Even if they did rob it, I also know of no hornbill hiding food for later use (called ‘caching/ making a cache’ for raptors).

A third, even less likely, idea is that may be these two birds are helpers to a third that is in the cavity they visited, but that too seems unlikely if they both went in the hole together.

 

The Pasir Ris Pied Fantail Story

Contributed by Seng Alvin.

I have been watching the nesting of the Malayan Pied Fantails Rhipidura javanica at Pasir Ris Park since 2014. All have been successful and none were invaded by the cuckoos. There was single nesting in 2014 but two in 2015 and last year.

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In January this year, a pair was again seen building a nest. By March two chicks were brought up successfully to grace the park. On 17th April I was a little surprised when I saw an adult bird sitting on the same old nest. They must have just bought this “resale unit” and moved in. I knew that they will be nesting again.

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But just as they were about to settle down, they decided to move to a “BTO” nest nearby. The poor father must have thought that he could take it easy this time round by reusing the old nest. It was not to be. He built a new nest around April/May just like any daddy would to please the mummy.

The new nest which look rather precarious.

Maybe it is the neighborhood, but sometime in early June I found the pair back at the old nest. It could be that the old nest is at a more convenient neighborhood close to the foraging grounds? It is still location, location, location even for the birds.

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Back at the old nest in early June. 

After all the hard work, they raise only one chick this time round. This is for the better as they can bring this one chick up without much stress.

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Only one chick this time around, less stress for the parents.

On 29th June, the chick fledged. The decision to stop at one paid off. Unless we tagged the adult birds, we cannot be certain if this pair are the same as the earlier pair that make Pasir Ris Park their home. I am really glad that despite the number of park visitors roaming around, these fantails are able to adapt and thrive here.

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Parent feeding the newly fledged chick outside the nest. 

 

Successful Nesting of Yellow-bellied Prinia

Contributed and photos by Seng Alvin

I came across many nestings of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at my backyard at Pasir Ris Park in the past but was not able to find the nest as they are always well hidden inside the grass thickets. That was until the 17 June when I saw Aldwin Recinto shooting a low nest at the Lorong Halus grasslands.

The Yellow-bellied Prinia is native to the Asian sub-continent and the Greater Sundas and a common resident in SEA including Singapore. It is the only Prinia species here often heard in open grasslands. Breeding had been recorded but not fully documented. Aldwin and I can consider ourselves lucky to be able to capture the final days of nesting of this confiding species.

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The round nest was made up of dried lalang leaves and root fibers bound loosely together. It was hanging from a small dried twig less than a foot off the ground among the tall lalangs and reed beds. Only one chick was inside. It was quite near from the foot path but still well hidden inside with just a small “window” to look in.

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This was the only photo of the parent bird feeding the young taken on 17 June. I did not know then that the chick was ready to leave the nest.

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I went back the next day and the nest was empty. The chick had fledged. The parents were feeding it outside the nest among the lalangs. I managed to shoot the parent bringing back an insect for the chicks but could not get shots of the actual feeding as the chicks stayed hidden. This parental feeding last only one day as the family was not around when I went back again on the 19th. So glad to be able to get these sets of photos of these hard to see prinias producing a new generation of these delightful grassland birds in nature parks. My thanks to Aldwin for sharing the find with me.

Reference: 

Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society of Singapore.

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing. 2013.

 

Nesting of an Olive-winged Bulbul

Contributed by Andrew Tan

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On 8 April, I took a walk along the mangroves lined Belayer Creek. This connector is named after a historic rock Batu Belayer or “Sail Rock” at the entrance of the harbor. This is one of the only two remnant mangrove patches in the south of Singapore. 60 birds, 19 fish species and 14 true mangroves have been recorded here.

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I saw two Olive-winged Bulbuls, Pycnonotus plumosus, flying in and out of a palm tree. On checking I found one of them sitting on a cup nest wedged in between the fond stem and the trunk below eye level ( right). It was made of plant fiber, leaves and twigs. My joy was complete when I saw two chicks inside. They were tiny and bare and must have just hatched. The Olive-winged Bulbul is the most common forest bulbul in Singapore. They are also found in our woodlands, abandoned orchards and some nature parks.

 

                      Parent sitting on the two newly hatched chicks.

I left the nest alone for a few days and returned on 12th to check on the progress. Both chicks were doing well. They were still bare and their eyes were still closed. The parents were seen bringing back cicadas and orange berries to feed them. This varied diet was new to me as I thought that it will be mostly insects for proteins.

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Besides insects the parent bird brought back berries for the very young chicks as well.

Insects like Cicadas are an important source of protein for the growing chicks

On the 15th, about a week old, pin feathers can be seen on both the chicks. Their eyes were opened and calls for food were more frequent. The parents were perched nearby the nest to make sure that no predators are around. When I got too close for comfort they will warn me with loud calls and frantic wing flapping. However instinct took over and they continued with the feeding after a while when I stayed away.

                      Four days to a week old chicks showing different feather growth.

Debra who lived nearby came to helped me to check on the chicks on 17th and found the fitter one standing on the rim of the nest. It looked strong and was fully covered with feathers. She reckoned that it will be fledgling soon. The other chick was still resting inside the nest and less active.

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When I went there on the 19th to check, the bigger chick surprised me by flying away to the bushes nearby. I may have caused it to take its maiden flight but I am glad that it fledged. The parents were still around and were still feeding the younger chick. It took just 11 days for the first chick to fledged. Nature make sure that they do so as fast as possible to avoid being predated. Good to see another pair of our native bulbuls gracing our natural landscape. Family photo on right showing the 9 days old chick standing on the nest.                Video of chick preening

 

First Nesting Record of the Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore.

First documented records of the Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis breeding in Singapore.

BING WEN LOW, ALFRED CHIA, GIM CHEONG TAN, WEE JIN YAP & KIM KEANG LIM

(This article was first published in BirdingASIA 26 (2016) under Important Breeding Record)

Introduction:

The Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis is a widespread non-breeding visitor to the Malay Peninsula, with breeding previously considered to be confined to the Malaysian states of Perlis and Kedah, including Langkawi island (Wells 2007). However, in 2005 breeding was recorded at Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara National Park, significantly increasing the species’s known breeding range on the Malay Peninsula (Hutchinson & Mears 2006). In Singapore, the Blue-winged Pitta is classified as an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant that is recorded annually with an earliest date of 7 October and latest of 12 April (Lim 2009). However, since 2008 there has been an increasing number of reports of Blue-winged Pittas calling between late April and July. Most of these reports emanate from western Singapore, around the periphery of a military training area, but similar reports have also been received from northern Singapore and Pulau Ubin, an island off the main island’s north-east coast in the channel separating Singapore and Malaysia. Here we document the first confirmed breeding records of Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore, based on observations at two nest sites on Pulau Ubin in July and August 2016.

Observations in the field

On 9 July 2016, WJY observed two adult Blue-winged Pittas carrying earthworms, apparently to an unseen nest in an area of regenerating secondary forest on the eastern end of Pulau Ubin (Plate 1).

AC7Plate 1. The first Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis nest (arrowed) at  Pulau Ubin, Singapore, among the dead fronds of a rattan grove, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

On 14 July GCT and a small team of helpers searched for and located an active nest. The area is an abandoned rubber plantation; consequently most of the bigger trees are rubber Hevea brasiliensis. The understorey is, however, floristically diverse and features a variety of shrubs and climbers. The nest was at ground level amongst the dead fronds of rattans Calamus erinaceus, and comprised a roughly spherical mound of dried leaves and twigs bound together with mud (Plate 2). The mould measured 22 × 20 cm with a depth of 17 cm and an entrance hole 11 × 9 cm. It was located a mere 4.3 m from an unpaved track popular with recreational hikers and cyclists, particularly at weekends.

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Plate 2. The nest, a roughly spherical mound, was constructed using sticks and vegetation bound together with mud, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

When the nest was first found on 14 July, four chicks were present. They were estimated to be at least a week old, given the presence of pin feathers and that the parents were already feeding them on 9 July. In order to document feeding behaviour without undue disturbance, cameras switched to video mode were left to record nest visits when observers were in the general area. It was observed that both parents returned as frequently as every two minutes to tend to the chicks. The parents could be differentiated from behind, based on the width of their dark crown stripe, with one individual having a noticeably broader stripe than its partner (Plate 3). It was not clear whether this was due to differences in feather wear or individual variation.

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Plate 3. The parent birds could be distinguished by the difference in the width of their crown stripe, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

Nest visits generally lasted between 16 and 40 seconds, with longer visits associated with the feeding of young and removal of faecal sacs. The parents also made short visits to the nest for the sole purpose of faecal sac removal. The primary food for the chicks was earthworms, which were collected by the parents in areas of bare earth and small gullies close to the nest (Plate 4). It was surprising that while one parent incessantly uttered alarm calls whenever humans were within 15 m of the nest, the other parent (with the narrower crown stripe) continued visiting the nest silently to feed the young. At other times, one parent uttered the loud alarm call from a hidden position while the other gave a slightly longer, lower-pitched whirrr at intervals of between one and three seconds. This alternative warning call was often accompanied by ‘wing-flicking’—the rapid opening and closing of the wings.

9.7.16 YWJ Pair with Earthworms and LizardPlate 4. The parent birds returned to the nest frequently with copious quantities of earthworms, 9 July 2016. Yap Wee Jin.

Although the brood comprised four chicks, it was apparent that the bulk of the food was fed to the three chicks closest to the entrance of the mound. On 19 July, all four chicks left the nest between 12h42 and 17h01 (Plate 5); they left progressively, in their own time, even though the fourth chick appeared underdeveloped compared with its siblings (Plate 6). The three stronger chicks were already capable of short flights to perches 3 m above the ground, whilst the fourth could only hop on the forest floor. Assuming the chicks were around a week old on 14 July, the estimated fledging period was about 14 days.

 

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Plate 5. One of the three stronger chicks during its first foray out of the nest, 19 July 2016Tan Gim Cheong.

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Plate 6. Compared to its three siblings, the fourth chick was noticeably weaker and less well-developed when the family fledged, 19 July 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

During subsequent visits on 21 and 23 July, we observed a single fledgling about 50 m from the nest site; by this time it was already independent, capable of foraging alone and undertaking flights between trees (Plate 7). While the fate of the rest of the clutch is unclear, the observation of the lone juvenile foraging independently three days after leaving the nest suggests that the fledglings become independent very quickly. However, the parent birds were still very protective and one of them continued to utter alarm calls incessantly whenever observers approached within 15 m of the fledgling. The parents were also observed to make short circular flights and hops around observers, flicking their wings frequently to show their white wing patches, presumably to act as a distraction and on at least one occasion both parents were observed to make alarm calls, alternating with wing-flicking.

 

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Plate 7. Soon after leaving the nest, one of the fledglings was already a confident flier that frequently perched in the mid-storey, 21 July 2016.
Alfred Chia

 

 

On 23 July, a second nest was discovered by KKL deeper in the forest, about 50 m from the original nest; it was similar in construction to the first nest. On 28 July, a single egg was found in the new nest and thereafter one egg was laid every day until 1 August—a clutch of five eggs (Plate 8).

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Plate 8. The second Blue-winged Pitta nest found at Pulau Ubin showing the clutch of five eggs, 2 August 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

 

 

The parents only started brooding on 2 August after all five eggs had been laid. During the incubation period, the parents took turns incubating and were occasionally observed to turn the eggs. On 14 August, 18 days after the discovery of the first egg, three chicks hatched and the remaining two eggs hatched the following day (Plate 9). During the period when there were both eggs and chicks to care for, the parents were observed to take turns feeding chicks and incubating. They also consumed the egg shells once the chicks had hatched.

AC10Plate 9. All five eggs in the second nest hatched successfully by 15 August 2016. Low Choon How.

During observations on 17 August, it was noted that nest visits lasted between 33 and 255 seconds, with intervals of from 1 to 19 minutes between visits. Parents were observed to either remove or consume faecal sacs and, in contrast to the first nest, alarm-calling was minimal, possibly due to the greater distance of the second nest from the trail. Unfortunately, this nesting attempt may not have had a positive outcome. On 18 August, the parents were seen to remove a dead chick from the nest and on 21 August we found that all the chicks had disappeared. As the chicks were only seven days old, unable to fly and completely dependent on their parents, it is most likely that they were predated.

Discussion:

The discovery of Blue-winged Pitta breeding in Singapore is significant both as an extension of the breeding range by about 400 km to the south-east but also because it may change our understanding of the status and movements of the species on the Malay Peninsula. The first reports of Blue-winged Pitta from Singapore outside the established wintering/migration period were in July 2008 when two individuals were heard calling vociferously on the Kranji Nature Trail (Low 2008, Lok et al. 2009); the species could already have bred in Singapore when the Taman Negara NP record was documented. We can now confirm that the breeding range of this species extends to the most southerly point of the Malay Peninsula, also raising the possibility of breeding on the islands of the Greater Sundas. The forest near the eastern end of Pulau Ubin is regenerating on abandoned rubber plantations. Similarly, most of the Blue-winged Pittas heard calling have been reported from western Singapore, where the forest has regenerated from land that was previously used for plantations or village agriculture (Yee et al. 2016). This is in line with published literature which notes the species’ preference for secondary growth as breeding habitat (Wells 2007). This habitat preference may also explain why the species has not been recorded breeding in southern Peninsular Malaysia, where there is little observer effort because the majority of visiting birdwatchers opt to visit remnant tracts of rainforest instead of secondary growth. There is no confirmatory evidence that the birds breeding in Singapore are resident—they may winter in Sumatra or elsewhere. In Singapore, anecdotal evidence such as birds colliding with windows shows that good numbers of Blue-winged Pittas move through the city-state on migration (BWL pers. obs.).

Acknowledgements:

We thank Low Choon How and Alan Owyong for their active involvement in documenting the nesting record and for useful discussion.

References:

Hutchinson, R. & Mears, A. (2006). Extension of the breeding range of Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis in peninsular Malaysia. Forktail 22: 119–120.

Lim K. S. (2009) The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore).

Lok A. F. S. L., Khor K. T. N., Lim K. C. & Subaraj, R. (2009) Pittas (Pittidae) of Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 155–165.

Low, A. (2008) Bird Report. Singapore Avifauna 22(7): 1–25.

Wells, D. R. (2007) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Yee A. T. K., Chong K. Y., Neo L. & Tan H. T. W. (2016) Updating the classification system for the secondary forests of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. 32: 11–21.

Nesting Pacific Swallows at a Housing Estate

Nesting of Pacific Swallows in a Housing Estate.

Contributed by Timothy Chua Jia Yao.

On the 21st of June, I came across a untidy nest built on the protruding sanitation pipes under a block of flats at Stagmont Park.

Pacific Swallows 3 Timothy Chua

The nest was made with dry leaves, grasses and fibers bind together with mud.

Pacific Swallows Timothy Chua

There were three chicks in the nest belonging to a pair of Pacific Swallows, Hrundo tahitica, a very common resident in Singapore.

They looked to have hatched about a week ago. The residents there told me that they have been using this site for the past few years.

This tally with the nesting report in The Avifauna of Singapore (Lim Kim Seng 2009) of a pair of Pacific Swallows using the same site at void deck at Woodlands for five years

Alan OwYong told me that we do not get many nesting records here and that I should monitor the nesting.

When I went back to check on them on the next day only one chick was in the nest. The other had fledged and was on the ground near to the nest.The parent was looking after and feeding it.

The remaining chick fledged last Sunday 26th. I also found the third chick on the floor below the nest, dead. It may have dropped out of the nest or maybe pushed out by its siblings before it can fly. Two out of three is not bad. Within days of fledgling, the family was not around anymore. The chicks must have grown up fast and learn to fend for themselves early, an instinctive survival strategy against would be predators.

April nesting of the GRT Drongos

 

22 April 2016

22 April 2016 Five days before fledgling. Note the chick’s big and flesh colored bill.

On 17th April 2016, I was startled by an Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhyncus, flying out from a small patch of Albizia woodlands next to a condo at one-north. A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus,  was mobbing it. After chasing the Buzzard away, it settled down on a mid storey perch.

Mobbing the OHB 17 April 2016

17 April 2016. Mobbing led me to the nest.

But I knew that it must be protecting a nesting nearby. Sure enough it then flew up to a cup nest built on a forked twig about 5 stories high. It is not usual that they chose to nest so close to an urban setting instead of a forest edge. The only thing I can think of was that the nearest forest a block away was being developed into a park. All the matured Albizias were cut down “for safety reasons”. I recorded a breeding there in 2009.

In the 1980s they are found within the central core but began spreading out to other woodlands like the Botanic Gardens and Malcolm Park. Their presence in the Southern Ridges and Sentosa was quite recent as there was no mention in “The Avifauna of Singapore” published in 2009.

22 April 2016. Dragonfy

22 April 2016. Bringing back a dragonfly to the chick.

I could just see two heads of the chicks hanging out the side of the nest. They looked not more than a week old. One parent would always be on guard while the other was out looking for food. They were very aggressive at this time of nesting. Every bird or perceived predator that were larger than a bulbul will be chased away if they perched anywhere near the nest.

GRT Drongo at one-north 18 April 2016

18 April 2016. Two chicks, maybe a week old. 

         

During the 10 days that I was observing them, the parents did not make any loud metallic calls that we normally hear in the forest. Instead they will give a low soft call to communicate with each other.

I seen them bring back beetles, cicadas, dragonflies to feed its chicks but no lizards or other “meaty” food. Two days after I found this nesting, only one chick was in the nest. I can only guess that it had been predated, forced out by the dominant chick or even kicked out by the parents if they think they cannot look after both.

27 April 2016 Fledged

27 April 2016 Fledged.

The chick fledged on 27th April, about two weeks after hatching. It left the nest and walk to the branches nearby flapping its wings. I did not see it fly but I can only see the parents around the next day. It may be hiding in some deep undergrowth for protection.

I noticed that all the GRT Drongo’s nests that I came across in the past decade, at Hindhede Park, Venus Loop and Bukit Brown were very high up. But the first nest that I saw in the mid 90s were just above head level. Have they adapted to more disturbances and human presence and play safe? Let me know what your experience was with our paradiseus birds.

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

 

First known nesting record of the Buffy Fish Owl

25.3.2016

Taken on 25 March  2016 about 2 week after it was discovered.

In the 1980s and 90s, the Buffy Fish Owls, Ketupa ketupa, were found at only a few locations in Singapore, like Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh and Central Catchment Forest. Our only record that indicate breeding was the sighting of two immatures at the Lower Peirce Reservoir in 1994 & 2010 and MacRitchie Reservoir in October 2011.. In recent years, they have spread out to Sentosa, Pasir Ris Park, Punggol and the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It augurs well for this owl.

Buffy Fish Owl Terence Tan

A month later, a fully fledged chick looking inquisitive. 25 April 2016. Photo: Terence Tan.

In early March this year, staff of SBWR noticed a fur ball through a gap in a Bird Nest Fern on a Rain Tree. It turned out to be an owl chick. It was the same with the Buffy Fish Owls I seen in Perak, Malaysia. They were also using Bird Nest Ferns as nests, which makes it hard to spot looking from below. Unlike other nesting birds, the parents do not feed them during the day and avoid undue attention.

Despite the attention of visitors to the Wetland Reserve, the parent birds don’t seem to feel threatened during the nesting. They just perched in the mid canopy nearby, keeping a watchful eye on the young. The chick was mostly exposed to the elements during the day staying awake most of the time.

On the 25th April, about seven weeks after being discovered, the chick was seen out of its nest, perched in the open on a branch of a nearby tree. It must have made the short flight across from the nest. It stayed at the same position for most of the day without trying to go near the parent birds perched below.

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Taking its first wobbly steps to see the brave new world.

We are so privileged to have a close up view of the  nesting of this nationally threatened species , probably our first, and happy to see that it’s successful fledged. Richard White just posted a photo of another newly fledged juvenile with its parent at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. What a happy co-incidence!

Reference: Lim Kim Seng.The Avifauan of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore). Thanks to Terence Tan for the use of his photo.

 

 

 

Collared Kingfisher fledglings at PRP

Contributed by Seng Alvin

Bird Nest Fern SAlvin

The nest hole at the based of the bird nest fern.

Kingfishers have large heavy bills to catch fish, lizards  and grasshoppers. They are not suited to build nests like bulbuls and sunbirds. So they have to adapt and used holes to nest. As their bills are not as strong as the woodpeckers, they cannot dig nest holes in the tree trunks and branches. Instead they look for softer medium like old termites nests, plant and fern roots. The White-throated Kingfisher digs holes in the sides of earth embankments for their nests.

Collared KF SAlvin

Parent Collared Kingfisher trying to get the chicks out of the nest hole

On 29 March, I came across a group of photographers shooting a Bird Nest Fern at Pasir Ris Park. Out of curiosity, I joined them. They were shooting at a nest hole at the base of the fern. They told me that it was the nest hole of a pair of Collared Kingfishers, Todiramphus chloris. This is something new to me. The parent bird flew back after a short wait but did not bring back any food. We later found out that it was trying to lure the chicks out of the nest.

Collared KF 2 SAlvin

The first chick fledged on 29 March 2016. Looks very much like the parents except for a shorter tail.

Collared Kingfishers are the most common kingfishers in Singapore. They are normally found near our coast and mangroves but some have moved inland for a higher protein diet when nesting. They have two breeding seasons, January to May and August to September.

The chicks were already fully grown and I was just in time to see the fledgling of the first chick. The second chick fledged the next day. They have short tails but already assumed the white and blue plumage of the adults. So happy to have another pair of these kingfishers making their home here.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Singapore Avifauna.

 

Nesting of the Grey-headed Fish Eagles at Little Guilin

Little Gulin Ulf
Little Guilin. Nesting tree is the large one in the Middle.
Contributed by Ulf Remahl. 24 March 2016. All photos by Ulf Remahl.
Until 2008 Little Guilin was for me only on the must see list for overseas visitors to prove that Singapore could indeed be scenic. Even today immediate parkland along Bukit Batok East Avenue 5 is only biologically interesting when the world largest orchid Grammatophyllum speciosum is flowering. For anyone keen on wildlife you instead have to look at far side of the quarry.
Tiger Orchid Ulf
World largest Orchid Grammatophyllum speciosum
 
In July 2008 I spotted a Grey-headed Fish Eagle feeding on a freshly caught 2-foot Malayan Water Monitor. From how the eagle behaved I had a premonition that it could be nesting in the area. Other people confirmed my hunch during coming days when I was already overseas. That year there was one eaglet.
GHFE on Cliff Ulf
Favourite perch of the Grey-headed Fish Eagle at the top of the protruding outcrop.
 
Until mid 2015 I have over the years only been able to see snippets of the breeding cycle for GHFE. Last year it became different. On August 14th I saw an eaglet being fed by an adult. One interesting fact was that both adult and juvenile bird started to feed on the fish from the head. The eagles had this time nested at an alternative site, which I have never managed to find. That the primary nesting tree since 2008 opposite Lianhua primary school had been reduced to a tall barren tree stump sometimes during spring 2015 didn’t matter for this pair of GHFE.
GHFE by nest Ulf
Adult Grey-headed Fish Eagle guarding its nest.
 
In spite of severe haze during autumn 2015 I irregularly continued to visit Little Guilin when the smoke seemed less thick. That was fortunate because on September 23rd I found out the eagles had built a completely new nest at northern end of lake inside the 39 days I had been absent.
GHFE on nest Ulf
Grey-headed Fish Eaglet close to fledgling. 
 
My next visit was on October 11th. My first few fairly thorough scan of the area including nest with a scope 20 – 60 times magnification was discouraging. There was no sign of any eagles anywhere. So I decided to make one final absolutely meticulous search. I hit pay dirt. What a joy! I suddenly spotted the eye of a GHFE between the branches below the rim towards the left side of the nest using 40x magnification.
 
Now and then the bird moved the head. Then I could see beak and part of the head. Once during the 1 ½ hour I stayed the bird stood up in the nest. Although I couldn’t see into the nest from the movement of the head of the bird – only being able to see hind part of it – the behaviour was the familiar one you see for example when a hen is turning her eggs. At least that is the way I interpreted the movements. This activity only lasted a couple of minutes.
GHFE BIF Ulf
Adult Grey-headed Fish Eagle flying off after feeding.
 
Next visit to Little Guilin was on October 29th.  Without knowledge gleaned during previous visit I probably would never have been able to spot the eagle. It was now even better concealed below rim of nest. Considering that GHFE eggs incubate in 28-30 days there ought to be nestling(s) during coming November.
 
A subsequent visit on November 26th became a happy occasion. Then I could for 10 seconds see a tiny head covered in white down pop up above the rim of the nest during the 1-½ hours I was there. Could there be a sibling? It was too early to tell. Considering that a normal clutch is 1-2 eggs there was still that possibility. Without having a high vantage point on slope towards Gombak Stadium I would never have been able to see what I just experienced. As usual two very vocal parents were present the whole time. 
GHFE Perch Ulf
 About a fortnight later or on December 11th it could be confirmed there was only one offspring. It was amazing to find out how fast eaglet had grown. By now the plumage was a mixture of feathers & down. It was even big enough to be able to relieve itself over the rim of the nest.
 
By next visit December 30th eaglet was still in nest. It was now as big as the omnipresent parents. I was never able to see when eaglet fledged, as I couldn’t visit nesting site until January 24th 2016. In spite of that knowing that GHFE fledge after about 10 weeks from having hatched the eaglet should have left its home between 15 – 20th of January. This also fits in with that egg was laid sometimes
around October 10th 2015. (Can you spot the Eagle on the rock face?)
 
When researching a bit about GHFE I found out that even today nobody knows for how long GHFE eaglets are dependent on their parents. Here I make an attempt to figure out what it can be. I try to do this by first working out when eggs are laid by GHFE in Singapore
 
One possible reference point might therefore be when GHFE build or repair a nest. I presume that shortly after that eggs will be laid drawing on the experience with the latest Little Guilin crop. Another option is when there are eaglets in the nest. The optimum one is when they fledge.
 
Myself I have seen nest building activity as follows – August 12th & 29th 2011 Little Guilin, – October 1st and 23rd 2012 Bukit Batok NP,  – Little Guilin between August 14th /September 23rd 2015.
 
Dr Cheong Loong Fah recorded GHFE building nest @MacRitchie October 1997
 
From Raptor Reports Alan OwYong & Lim Kim Keang had 2 adults on nest December 4th 2011 in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. There is nothing noted about any young ones but I presume something was going on.
 
Then there is a very good record by Tan Chuan Ming at Lentor Avenue where eaglet fledged May 8th 2012. That egg should have been laid during the last days of January 2012.
 
There is nesting recorded at Upper Seletar Reservoir by Doreen Ang & Freda Rickwood November 15th 2014.
 
The only other information to add would be that the latest eaglet in Little Guilin probably fledged during 15th – 20th of January 2016
 
Although materiel is limited it can tentatively be said that in Singapore GHFE commence nesting any time from September to January.
 
Next logical step in my investigation was to find any records about juveniles being fed. To my utter astonishment it seems mine is the only one? Working from that as a template assuming the Little Guilin pair nested as late as the one Tan Chuan Ming recorded 2012 the feeding goes on for just over 3 months or 14 weeks. On the other hand if my pair nested at the same time during 2014 as 2015 the feeding period would be roughly 8 months.
 
So if ornithologist here in Singapore either closely follow the feeding pattern of a pair of GHFE or just record any time they see anything this country could score a world first into settling something unknown until today.