Part 2- Occasional Birds in our garden

Introduction to Birding

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In the previous page, I made a list of 12 birds and introduced them as birds we normally see in our gardens in Malaysia. That was an easy task and the birds selected, appropriate. These are birds that have learned to share the same living space within human and home is somewhere in the urban environment. The human won the race and the birds just cope with us.

There are other houses in less densely populated part of town and houses built into remote areas of green lungs. Crudely phrased,  human needs better living environment and that concept itself bring their houses nearer or into the territory where the birds used to have complete monopoly. The fruiting trees for their subsistence and the shelters for their safety and breeding. These humans with their affordability had retained some of the original features like well wooded garden and forest like settlements. With proper trees around birds could only detect some important changes - so they could decide to go some where else, still hang around plus spending time more time elsewhere. Here in Part 2 and Part 3, I will introduce birds that occasionally returns to their old haunts and other birds who accidentally stray into places with green vegetation but occupied by humans. I will start with Part 2 showing birds that visit our garden off and on, but having seen them on quite few meetings.

Before we start going through the information of birds on this page, I would like to alert you to a special topic -Sounds. Many a times, there were sounds reaching the house. These were not irritating nor neither persistent just rather distinct and clear. You were not curious enough to follow through to ascertain the sources of these sounds or rather where to find out from?

Many of these sounds could be traced back to be that of bird calls. Well, even though you could had made attempts to walk close enough the direction of the source, I am very sure if there was indeed a bird at that place, it could not spotted as the calls stopped and no bird in sight either. Yes, it is near impossible to locate the birds. In this page, I would introduce some of the more familiar calls and a chance for you to get acquainted with the birds making such calls. Also explained the reason as to why there would be birds whose calls could be heard yet with much difficulties in sighting the birds.

White-breasted Kingfisher

The first bird on this page is the White-breasted Kingfisher. Most Kingfishers are large birds and colorful as well, so is this one. May be appropriate to mention that there is another batch of Kingfishers which are of "dwarf" size. These tiny birds of the forest are even more colorful.

If you study this bird carefully, the White-throated Kingfisher is extremely colorful. When view from the front part of the bird, there is the very prominent white patch at the breast and the whole bird appears as maroon brown. However when the bird turns to show its back which the bird often does in the duration of its perch, it is an entirely different colored bird, the back in rich turquoise blue.

The second point about the White-breasted Kingfisher which I find interesting its variety of calls, made obviously for different purposes. The calls are loud and continuous yet not reaching a stage to be as labeled as disturbing. Such calls bring life to the neighborhood. In our outing, hearing their calls is like breathing a tinge of hope that there is bird life in the area that we are engaged in.

Lastly , this Kingfisher so used to seeing human being, that it display a calm behavior close to that of a "domesticated" wild bird. The normal habit of the bird is to perched rather high on vantage point giving itself a good panoramic view, the tall tree usually over the edges of waterways. Its stable diet is lizards and shells and these lizards visit the water's edge for the daily fluid intake. However when humans are not around, the bird would leave their high perch and choose another which is at our eye level. This preferred position will bring the bird closer to its food sources. In situation when they were caught off guard by the sudden appearances of human, the bird would not deter. More often not  the bird would not take off for immediately flight. The bird would watch for new development and would only leave when human heads directly towards it. If the distances to the bird are kept at 15 feet apart, nice time in making pictures of the bird.

The White-breasted Kingfisher is a very common bird in the Peninsula, lining up the whole way on the roadside wire when we drive through roads in the padi planting area. In other forested country road, the sighting is less often but good chances of seeing a few. A local bird that is seen all year round. So much so that those in involved in the hobby of bird watching or bird photography has branded it as a "trash bird" just because of its readily availability. In other Asian country where this species do not exist, getting a glimpse of the bird is a memorable moment.

 
 

After that introduction here are some collected clips

The bird calls of the White-breasted Kingfishers    &   videos 1. 2. 3.

If there is a need to learn more about Kingfishers that could be seen in Malaysia, visit my page on Kingfishers


Blue-tailed Bee-eaters

By the last week of September or the first week of October, most households in urban Petaling Jaya would be hearing this calls around 9.30 each morning . Quick enough to get to the garden and scanning the sky there would a flock of birds about 6-10 birds hovering and searching for spots to perch. They had left the roosting area in early morning and had taken some time to reach the housing estate area. The birds would then disperse and leaving one or at the most, 2 birds on a single TV aerial which their favorite choice. I have seen some choosing the eave of roofs. Through the day, there would be a continuous spatters of calls, the bird would leave their perch and hover around for a couple minutes to get their bees and return to exactly the same perch. The Bee-eater hardly flap their wings but rather glide as the last picture shows.

In fact visiting the region there are 2 species of Bee-eaters. The blue-tailed featured here on this page and another species with close resemblances, the Blue-throated Bee-eater. The Blue-throated Bee-eaters are birds of the open fields, like Padifields. While the Blue-throated Bee-eater is a bird of the forest edge. Perhaps it is the choice of bees that they are after, the Blue-throated hardly venture into the compounds of houses but remain on bare branches of trees that stretch sideways. Solitary bungalows in heavily forested surrounding may attract the bees that this bird is looking for.

Both Bee-eaters mentioned are migratory birds. The Blue-tailed have their native country as Indochina, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea where they do their breeding. This bird would be in the area of the Peninsula during September-December and would be up in Thailand in February-March each year. The Blue-throated would in the Peninsula in March-September. Look like a natural roster that the 2 species of birds are following. Never see both birds together at the same time. In practice very true.

Some Blue-throated Bee-eater do not follow this schedule and had remained as vagrant. Not surprising to spot a couple of stray during the period that are not suppose to be around. There was a meeting up with both birds at the staff quarters of the electric company in Pangsoon when both species were present. The Blue-tailed on the wire in front of the staff quarters and the Blue-throated Bee-eaters a few hundred meters away in the jungle fringes.

Both birds barrow their nest at sandy cliff. In this area of ex-Tin Mines, the bunds made of of tailings have vertical walls which are ideal places for nests.

 

 
 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Here is one more short call from the Blue-tailed Bee-eater and videos

For more information on Bee-eaters in general, I have another page devoted to this group of Bee-eaters birds as seen in Malaysia

Blue-throated Bee-eater

For information and easier understanding, this a picture of the Blue-throated Bee-eater. I have seen quite few postings made on the internet of this bird against an obvious an urban background. This scenario is not common in the with the birds at the places that I visited in Malaysia.

The bird do comes very close to urban area and had selected spots on trees in public parks. Both birds the Blue-tailed and Blue-throated are not disturbed by the presence of human nearby as the perch the birds have chosen are rather high up. The calls from both birds are almost indistinguishable and Here is a sample from a Blue-throated Bee-eater I still maintain my point that the Blue-throated Bee-eater is not one of the garden birds.

 

Common Iora

One of the nicest birds that I vote for would be the Common Iora. It is rather colorful bird for one, the male especially, and second the species is one bird that has one of the largest repertoire of calls within the local bird's  world. My mind having glued to that point I was pondering about the background as to why this species of bird has not being considered as a caged birds. Say compared with another bird of the same type and size - the White-Eyes. Still speculating, on the down sides, I could think of  couple of reasons 1] when removed from its natural environment, the birds lost its reasons to make the various calls and 2] This is not prolific breeding bird, their numbers in the wilderness is also low and so the bird is not readily available.

If the bird is around in your neighborhood, it is easy to feel their presence as their calls reach great distances. At the bottom of this article, there are samples of the calls I collected. Listen to them carefully I am very sure some of the calls sound familiar and some sounds that you have heard before in your garden.

This bird normally wanders around in pair, a male and a female. While feeding there would be one type of call. Certain times when the partner strayed elsewhere, there would be another call. The list goes on and on.

The calls are sharp and loud to travel great distances. Could be persistent up to 30 minutes long from one single perch. Yes, guided by the same direction where the call is purportedly coming from and though standing just below the bird. I too experienced tremendous difficulty in pin pointing the spot to view the caller, despite of the fact that I know how big the bird would be and I could recognize the bird instantly when located. All because the bird hardly moved when making the call and the position chosen for its perch allowed the bird to blended in well with the foliage. The natural protection that the bird has.

The male is easier to locate as it has a bright yellow underpart while the female is pale green which makes the task of locating the bird even more complicated. This species of birds is a good subject for the aspiring bird watchers as both male and female are different. A chance to see them over many times and training skills in making ID

I also have a page dedicated to Ioras seen in Malaysia in general

 

 
 

female

 

male side view

 

male front view

 

Here are my collections Common Iora - the Calls     videos

 

Brown Shrikes

By late September of each year, migrant birds from the north started arriving in Peninsula Malaysia. The front runners are Wagtails, Shrikes and Kingfishers for the jungles dwellers and Waders for the shorelines. Among this group of birds are Shrikes both Brown Shrikes and Tiger Shrikes.

Brown Shrikes are birds of open fields while Tiger Shrikes generally birds who prefer forest edges. We started seeing Brown Shrikes perched in the open at eye level perched on top of poles, sticks or branches. An alternative would be a perch higher - on electric wire running besides country roads. So, this is a bird that prefers vast grassland and open field also seek an open view in front for easy hunting and at the same time exposing itself to passers-by.

But some individual birds choose urban garden instead of open field. For a few years now this bird remained in an area around my house. Precisely at 6.45 am, the bird would make the morning call from the tree in front of my house. From there the bird moved within the compounds of the couple of houses nearby. I could tell the location where the bird was through the direction of where the calls were coming from. But hardly seeing the bird. I had taken pictures of a Brown Shrike in my garden during the previous years' visit.

But this year over a month now, I have yet to catch sight of the bird. This one example where the habit of a bird of this species is supposedly to show itself but here is one bird who has cleverly remained incognito.

All I want to say is that this Brown Shrike arrives into Malaysia in good numbers, whether the one in your garden is the type who likes to perched in open or one who choose to hide behind foliages, I have a feeling that many Malaysia gardens are having one nearby.

 
 

There is a page on Shrike started by me but it is in its prelimary stage without any text. Just for watching more pictures on the bird and one record of call

 

For viewing the birds I have used videos that I have recorded in a location elsewhere other than my garden 

Common Tailorbirds

To most people who have some knowledge of bird's name, names like Kingfishers and Woodpeckers may sound familiar. But Tailorbirds? just pondering what task do this Tailorbird carry out that is different from Weaver birds?

Yes Questions and Tailorbird - a name given to this little bird and which came after Rudyard Kipling Jungle Book became famous. In the process of constructing its nest used for incubation and bringing out its young chicks, the bird chooses and pull the leaf over as a canopy and then stitches it to the nest. Many pictures of this construction is available on the internet and which I do not have a personal copy. This is an act of the tailor constructing its nest.

This is a real tiny bird with the tail standing upright most of the time. A fairly common bird to most gardens in the urban area. More so when the gardens has low scrubs and using these scrubs as perimeter fencing. Tailorbirds moves around the middle and lower storey of scrubs and trees. Its path of movements at most time at or below our eye level. The movements and weaving through the bushes is swift and hardly stop or perch in the open. The birds makes loud repetitive calls, most times perched and hidden from sight. Moves on to another spot and the calls continue.

This is a small bird, periodically may flashes itself in the open for split seconds only. Most households owners are misled, gauging from the loudness of the calls which must have from some distances away. They search in vain. Also expecting to see a good size bird to match the loud volume, not a wrong judgment to seek for the bird say 10-15 feet away. In actual fact the bird could be within yards concealed comfortably by branches and leaves. After making a series of calls, the birds could easily be 10 feet away from its last position where the calls were made.  The most common error in judgment made by human as to why the bird was not seen after repeated attempts.

 

 
 

After that brief introduction, here is the sound made by the bird and heard so often     and the videos

Brahminy Kite

There is an Eagle in the sky! Oh No! It is not an Eagle but a raptor!

But no! It is a Kite, a Brahminy Kite. Yes, beside the commonly used terms for large flying birds, there are many species carnivorous birds patrolling combing the area for food. In our urban area, this Brahminy Kite will take to the sky a few times each day its recreation and scouting for food. The initial flight in the morning and the last one in the evening is a ritual.

This Kite or Eagle like birds that soars to the sky above our house is a common resident and rather unusual for this bird to stays and seek food in the urban area. Kites are more often seen at the area of the estuary with fishing village. Here the fishermen would sort out their catches and discard the unwanted materials which the Kite would salvage.

The Kite is more or less that only Eagle like bird that we get to see. For those houses near to forest edge they could hear and even sometimes see the Crested Serpent Eagle, a bird which diet is snakes and lizard. Quite obvious that these creepies and crawlies are not creatures that you see often. Then there are those houses near the coast, there are some more Eagle like birds. A small raptor could be hovering above a vacant plots or open field, this is the Black-shouldered Kite. Then there is a very large Eagle, the white-bellied Sea-Eagles. These are deviants from the list on our topics as we are more locked on the topic of birds in urban garden.

Brahminy Kite live with the habits of scavenging food, like discarded meat from the fishermen, road kills and even snatching from other birds. The bird that made Langkawai famous as a bird island is the Brahminy Kite. Understandable as the whole island is fringed by shore lines with a good human population. Now they have capitalized on the bird's feeding habit and offered tours like "Feeding the Eagles" As mentioned earlier by the sea, there are also 2 other birds, the White-bellied Sea eagle and Black Kites whose population are rather inconspicuous when compared with the Brahminy Kite. These other birds though small in numbers do make a noticeable presence.

 

 
 

Here is the call made by the Brahminy Kite    and the videos 1] Brahminy in short flight   and 2] The kite basking into the sun   and 3] in the company of a Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Here is the link to my page on Kites

Coppersmith Barbet

Ever conscious about the going -on of a single count hooting sound around your house? It is a series of continuous  calls lasting over half an hour in the early hours of sunrise and just before the sun set in the evening.

This is the sound .

With that clear sound and perhaps the direction as to where the sound is coming from should be an easy task to locate the bird. Not really, this loud sound echoes and only by walking around then hitting the right direction would the sound could become louder, leading you nearer to the place where the bird is perched.

On one hand it should be easy to spot the bird. It has the habit of seeking out the highest bare branch in the area and perched there in the open while making the calls. But it is also not that easy as this small bird is greenish speck against a clear sky as the pictures shows.

The bird actually lives in your garden. Wakes up each morning to make its ritual morning calls and then flies off to some where for it routine. Returns in the evening before sunset to make shorter round of calls.

Breeding season for this bird is much closer in between compared with other birds. The birds both parents would stay close to the nest, maintaining and feeding the chicks. During this period the ritual of calling is suspended. I have a topic made on its breeding - this is the link. Here are also a couple of videos that I had made for this bird

Coppersmith Barbet in the woods at its nest

 
 
         

When it comes to nesting, a low hanging decaying bough that sees a lot of human traffic is preferred. The entrance is on the underside of this bough. This is one way of ensuring the nest and its chicks are not visited by unwanted predators

Barbet, this beautiful green bird is has striking colors on its head. Here is a link to my page on Barbet

Pied Fantail

The Pied Fantail bird is so named as it has the habit of having its tail standing upright and then spreading it out like fan in the hand. This bird also has a wide variety of calls but under normal circumstances in the garden, we only get to hear a couple of the same familiar calls. Without sighting the birds but upon hearing some sweet melodic calls, so often I mistake that those calls is another variant made by the Robin Magpie. That close the similarity is.

This is a common garden bird for those owners having gardens which is located near to fairly wooded areas. In the sub-montane region area, there is another species the White-throated Fantail which is different for this lowland species. Why I introduced this irrelevant species to the topic? The White-throated Fantail in its territory acts as a group leader and look-out bird for the roaming bird waves. A meaningful and obvious role.

In the lowland area, there are much less incidence of "Bird Wave", more so in domestic gardens. Though the situation do not exist in the garden, the Pied Fantail I notice do display that leadership quality as well.

Upon the sight of human, for not taking flight but hanging around and hoping non-stop, I would say this Fantail is a friendly bird. Cannot tell what those calls I heard in the garden were intentionally meant for but seldom see a pair of the Fantail together. In the wild, the scenario changed. Courting birds in pair and in group is fairly common sight. This is also the time that those calls not practiced in the garden are used. So much more to learn about this bird.

 
 
 
 

For this segment on Fantail, here is one call  and the Videos

 

 

This page is what I termed as "Work-In-Progress" page where I will continue filling up with content as I slowly progress.

When finished and combined with the previous page bearing Part 1, I would have introduced a list of 20 odd birds on these 2 pages, only 2 possible candidates that I have omitted. These birds are the Common Flameback [a large woodpecker] the Gerygone [a tiny Flycatcher]. The woodpecker being a bird of the forest edge avoid moving into garden while the Flycatcher, a rather dull colored inconspicuous bird without outstanding calls is not easy to detect. 

Every garden and its location attract almost the same type of birds because of the birds preference for food, shelter and rest places. There may be a couple of odd birds who had strayed into the area from time to time. These are exceptional scenes while other odd bird would even make that venturing into the domestic area as a preference. Perhaps your garden is next to a waterway and a Pond-Heron likes the environment there. Here I can examples in the Klang Valley where Painted Storks had visited many gardens. Or the case where a Crested Serpent Eagle would perch each morning on a lamp post above the Klang Valley Expressway.

Overall the chances of the odd bird stopping over your garden or places within your housing estate is very low. More examples are the incidents of Oriental Honey Buzzards stopping by my housing estate, twice in 5 years and the Pitta roosted here only once.

These 2 pages are more devoted unveiling the mystery and to know about the birds that live with us and those coming back repeatedly to visit us over the years. Perhaps now there is a chance that you started making mental notes or even a written list of the birds you see in your garden and other parts of the housing estate. I can assure you it is rewarding having the extra knowledge of the living things that are sharing the same environment.

If there is a need to find out more about birds flying about suburbs and Public Park, this is the Bird List for Public Park, taking Rimba Kiara as an example.