Category Archives: Fun Facts

Tweeddale morph? Origins of the name for a uniquely plumaged Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus)

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19th century painting of “Pernis tweeddalii” by J. G. Keulemans

This post was triggered by an avid birder who asked the above question.

In the late 19th century, an Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus with an (until then) never seen before blackish-and-white plumage was collected in the southeast of Sumatra, Indonesia. This specimen was described by British ornithologist Arthur Hay in 1877, under Pernis ptilorhyncus, apparently hesitating to separate it from the very variable Oriental Honey Buzzard.

Subsequently, another two specimens of similar plumage were collected, and the distinct plumage of these birds led ornithologists to treat them as a new species of Honey Buzzard. In 1880, this new species was christened Pernis tweeddalii, in honour of Arthur Hay, who was also known as Lord Tweeddale.

Along the way, it was lumped back into Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus as it breeds with the normal brownish-plumaged OHBs resident in the tropics. Therein lies the origin of the name “Tweeddale morph” of the torquatus subspecies of the OHB.  

Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot cutting and ‘stuffing’ leaves onto its feathers

Text & photos by Sim Chip Chye

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A female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot with strips of cut leaves ‘stuffed’ onto its back feathers (note how a slit in the leaves catch onto the feathers)

On 28 April 2021, looking from my balcony, I witnessed an interesting phenomenon: an adult female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot was seen perforating 1.0 – 1.5 cm on the side margin of the Jambu plant’s leaves and would tear it off strips measuring around 4 cm to 6 cm with the final piece looking like a serrated blade.

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A female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot holding a strip of cut leaf (note that four of the leaves in the photo show signs of cuttings)

It would then place this “blade of leaf” between its back feathers and repeat this act for quite a few times, carefully arranging them neatly, seemingly wanting to “wear the leaves on its back by sticking them on” and when it is satisfied with the placements, fly off as fast as it had come in! I didn’t see any fragments falling off in its flight!!! Looking closer at the photos, it appears the parrot actually made a slit on the serrated leaf and cleverly let the slit catch on to its feathers.

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A female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot securing a strip of cut leaf onto its back feathers which already have many strips of cut leaves

I was guessing if it’s preparing a nest with those tediously collected pieces of leaf fragments and curiosity got the better of me! I googled and saw a couple of locally reported encounters much like mine!

“Tomial tooth” in the Tiger Shrike

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Tiger Shrike, Changi Business Park canal, 19 Jan 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong

Fun Facts

The upper edge of the Tiger Shrike’s hooked bill features a pointy protrusion on each side, called “tomial tooth.” The shrike tackles prey with a precise attack to the nape, probably using the “tooth” to sever the spinal cords of their vertebrate prey with a bite and paralyze them.