Tag Archives: Long-tailed parakeet

Nesting of Long-tailed Parakeets in Singapore – A 11 weeks Monitoring Report

11 Weeks Monitoring of the nesting Long-Tailed Parakeets in Singapore – by Mike Smith

Introduction

The Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda is a social bird found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sumatra, Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. It is globally near threatened.

In Singapore it a common parakeet, easily recognised by its long tail and loud screeching but have been photographed on numerous occasions but little was known of their nesting behaviour. This is the first full documentation of its successful nesting in Singapore.

A nest is spotted.

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I heard from a friend that Liu Zhongren had discovered a Long-tailed Parakeet nest. It was off the beaten track in Hort Park and I decided to take a look. In the 11 weeks, I had visited the area on 29 days and spent over 90 hours monitoring and observing its nesting behaviour. This has increased the knowledge base of how a male parakeet and at least four females raise a healthy fledgling.

Information from Liu Zhongren and a photo on the internet from ebird.org suggest that a male and female parakeet cleaned up a lineated barbet nest hole 6 metres from the ground in a Rainbow Gum tree (left) and took it over during the last week of April 2018. After the first week of May the male disappeared and females incubated the nest.

Nest monitoring starts

My first visit was on 8th May 2018.  I was lucky to see a female because as I soon discovered, when she sits on the eggs she rarely makes an appearance and never left the nest during my normal viewing hours of 10 am – 4 pm. It just poked her head out of the nest a few times for a few minutes and occasionally hung out upside down. Not a sound was heard; complete silence! No male parakeet was observed during the first month!

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Parakeets like to hang around with me but they do it upside down. My photographs showed that more than one female was doing the incubation. My records show at least four over the 11 weeks! Communal breeding my “go to” expert explained! Apparently it’s not uncommon in the birding world.

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On 25th May at 8.30 am a female hanging upside down outside the nest suddenly gave a soft screech and from that position flew rapidly from the nest to feed in the forest, 0.5 km away. A different female returned after 10 minutes. This was repeated 10 minutes later. Then nothing else happened so I left at 10 am.

Monitoring the nest was rather boring as there were long periods of inactivity and apart from park staff I was usually on my own under a harsh sun and humid conditions. However, I did get to practice trying to capture female parakeets in flight but opportunities were few and far between. Most of the action took place between 7 and 9 am and 5 to 7 pm. After landing at the nest the female parakeet would disappear inside within a couple of seconds.

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The National Parks Board made both me and the mummy parakeet in the nest nervous when they started boring into the tree to check it was “safe”. The bird flew off in anger, I watched in frustration but all was all well 30 minutes later and the female returned.

Even more disturbing was a Lineated Barbet coming back to inspect its former nest hole. I feared there would be a turf war but I guess the parakeet signed a lease and stayed put.

A change in behaviour.

Initial flights I witnessed were only for a few minutes, I assumed this was because the eggs were being incubated. After feeding the female would rest and watch the nest from a tall trumpet tree some 50 metres away, for a few minutes before giving a small screech and heading into the nest.

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On 13th June I noticed a change in behaviour, the absence of the female was getting longer, up to an hour and a week later up to 3 hours. For the first time the male appeared on the trumpet tree and fed the female by regurgitating food. The female then flew to the nest and the male back to the forest. Clearly there were chick(s) deep in the nest hole. Flights increased in number with an extra flight during the 10 am – 4 pm period.

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Occasionally the male would feed the female on a different tree a few hundred metres away. The female sometimes went to a nearby rain tree to feed and sharpen her claws.

The Baby Appears!!

My first sight of a chick was not until 8th July. Even then it was impossible to get a good photo. I think I saw two dark, scrawny, ugly babies but the photo isn’t very clear but for sure only one hatched. My first clear sight of one chick, which had grown significantly and was now a colourful bird was on 17th July.

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Watching the nest was now much more interesting. The baby was growing fast and there were regular photo opportunities. The female stayed away from the nest for longer periods and would watch from the trumpet tree for up to an hour. The baby appeared at the hole entrance regularly.

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Another behavioural change – Females spend more time close to but not in the nest.

On 19th July the females spent time on the nest tree but not in the hole which was presumably now a tight fit for two birds.

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The Male Returns to the Nest Vicinity.

On 20th July at 9 am the male bird posed much closer to the nest on nearby trees. Suddenly the baby stretched its neck out of the hole and started screeching at the top of its voice, both the male and female flew near to it (the first time I had seen the male anywhere near the nest). The male fed the female before flying off, the female flew into the nest and fed the baby out of sight.

Fledgling.

At 8.00 am on July 21st the young baby stretched its neck out of the nest and at 8.10 am a female parakeet landed on top of the trumpet tree some 50 metres away. 30 minutes later with a loud screech the male joined the female but did not feed her. At 8.50 am the female flew to the nest.  At 8.55 there was a terrific amount of screeching from the male on the distant tree and the female at the nest. Without warning the female flew towards the male and the baby followed. The male took off and all three headed for the jungle.

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The finale happened so quickly I only got a blurred picture of the male and female with the fledgling flying below them to Kent Ridge Park. I wondered if the chick would return to the nest but it did not and presumably is being looked after communally at Kent Ridge Park. The female did return to the nest and stayed in it overnight before flying off next morning. The male and female returned to the trumpet tree the next day (I speculate that they cleaned up the nest or were checking that the fledgling didn’t try and return) but not thereafter.

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It was rather disappointing that the chick didn’t pose outside the nest or put or feed at the entrance (unless it did so in the dark) but at least it successfully left the nest aged at an estimated 7 weeks. From these observations I learned a significant amount about the nesting of the Long-tailed Parakeets.

Observations and My Conclusions:

Nest Prepared: Last week of April by male and female

Eggs Laid: Ist week of May after which the male left the nest area. Incubated by 4 females (male not involved)

Egg(s) Hatch: End of May (approx 3-3.5 weeks)

Feeding of Baby: Is done by females deep in the nest hole.

Baby: Chick does not appear regularly at nest entrance in daylight until it is 6 weeks old.

Fledge: I chick fledged on 21st July (approx 7 weeks old)

Male does not go inside nest once eggs have been laid

Male feeds in Kent Ridge Park and trees above Hort Park. Females feed on their own food plus get additional food from the male, by regurgitation, on a lookout tree away from the nest.

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8th Annual Parrot Count 2018

8th Annual Parrot Count 2018

Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong

Introduction

The World Parrot Count was initiated eight years ago by Michael Braun and Roelant Jonker from the parrot researchers’ group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU). A key objective of the study was to document the status and abundance of feral and non-native parrots in urban environments globally where populations are established. Being part of this study provides an excellent opportunity for us to also monitor native parrot abundance and diversity in Singapore beyond our nature reserves. Given that some species such as the non-native Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) have increased in abundance across Singapore, it is also timely to identify areas where these species are concentrated and their roost sites.

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Results and Conclusions

Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 24 February 2018. 11 sites across mainland Singapore were counted this year. This year’s total of 1,770 parrots of 9 species was much lower than the 2,621 parrots of 9 species recorded last year.

This year, the site with the highest species richness was Bukit Brown Cemetery with a total of six species of parrot recorded including an escapee Red Lory (Eos bornea). The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 899 individuals seen, making up 50.8% of all parrots recorded during the count. However, this was a significant decrease from 2017’s total of 1,521 individuals, the 1,837 individuals in 2016 and the high count of 2,059 observed in 2015. 738 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (41.7%) of the remaining parrots recorded. Other species recorded include small numbers of Tanimbar Corellas (Cacatua goffiniana), Coconut Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots (Loriculus galgulus) and Yellow-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea).

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During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 965 parrots were counted.  The largest parakeet flocks mainly arrive at last light, with counters at many sites managing to observe the noisy spectacle of flocks of parakeets returning to their roosting trees just before complete darkness.

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Of particular interest is the significant decline in the total number of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded during this year’s count. Despite similar weather conditions to last year and no visible changes to existing counting sites, the large flocks of Long-tailed Parakeets that stage and roost around Yishun appear to have disappeared from the area. While this is undoubtedly a cause for concern, equally unusual was the unexpected appearance of large numbers of Long-tailed Parakeets at counting sites in western Singapore. Counters at Clementi and Jurong West, roosting sites that traditionally supported only Red-breasted Parakeets, reported more than a hundred (in the case of Jurong West 462!) Long-tailed Parakeets roosting alongside their Red-breasted counterparts (Table 1).

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This is the first time in the count’s eight year history that large flocks of both parakeet species have been recorded roosting together at certain urban roost sites, seemingly disproving the hypothesis that urban parakeet roosts in Singapore were segregated by species. It is unclear whether the decline in Long-tailed Parakeet numbers around Yishun and their appearance at previously unused roosting sites in Western Singapore are linked. However, it shows that the roosting behaviour of Singapore’s urban-adapted parakeets are potentially very fluid in a constantly changing urban landscape. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that Yishun’s parakeet flocks may also have shifted to new staging and roosting sites, potentially in adjacent areas such as Sembawang. It is hoped that birdwatchers will continue to report parakeet roosts within their neighbourhoods, so that a more complete picture of Singapore’s urban parakeet population can be obtained and unusual observations in roosting ecology documented through regular surveys such as this count.

Acknowledgements

On behalf of the Bird Group, we would like to thank the following for their willingness to carry out parrot monitoring on a weekend evening – Site Leaders: Anuj Jain, Yong Ding Li, Winston Chong, Lim Kim Keang, Lee Ee Ling, Jane Rogers, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont, and Richard White. Assisting Counters: Florence Ipert, Ernest Lee, Hui Choo, Alex Lim, Joyce Ang, Heather Pong, Kelly Ng, Yen Ting, Carmen Choong, Yanna Graham, Lee Whye Guan, and Tang Zhe. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.

5th Annual Parrot Count 2015

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Long-tailed Parakeets, new staging and roosting sites found. Photo: Alan OwYong

For the first time, we crossed the 1,000 parrots count at our 5th Annual Parrot Count on 28th February 2015. The unprecedented number was 2,725. For the first three counts, we were concerned about high count of the introduced Red-breasted Parakeets, Pssittacula alexandri, taking over from our native Long-tailed Parakeets, Psittacula longicauda. But with a change of timing and a new site, we found the main fly path, staging and roosting sites of the Long-tailed Parakeets numbering in the high thousands. The full PDF report is in this LINK HERE.

 

Unusual feeding behavior of the Long-tailed Parakeets by Shirley Ng.

Long-tailed Parakeets by Shirley Ng

I first observed the unusual behavior of long-tailed parakeets feeding on the old roof tiles in my neighborhood last year after a heavy downpour.

On the evening of 8 January 2015, I again observed the same behavior with a a flock of long-tailed parakeets that made a stop over in the evening before they head to their roosting site. They were up in the rain trees as usual but a couple of birds started to descend onto a neighbor’s roof then more started to follow. Soon there were over fifty birds on the roof peeling off material from the roof tiles to eat.

Long-tailed Parakeets 2 by Shirley Ng

I managed to capture this behavior as it was relatively quiet and the birds didn’t mind the couple of people walking around below them. They fed for almost 10 minutes before a neighbor’s car horn scared the flock into flight.

After some speculation, it was assumed that like macaws and parakeets of South America, our long-tailed parakeets were harvesting clay. Upon checking with SK Khew, I found out that old roof tiles in the late 50s were made of concrete.

Upon closer examination of my photos, I could see the birds harvesting pieces of moss that grew on soil deposits accumulated from run offs. My guess is after the rain the moss and underlying soil is damp making it easier for the parakeets to pry the moss and soil off the concrete. It would seem that they are consuming minerals from the soil. (Photos by Shirley Ng)