Waterbirds  

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From the family of Rallidae

Many waterbirds ranging from small to medium-sized get classified under the genus of Rallidae sharing the same profile and feeding habits. One such similarity is that almost all species found in malaysia are associated with wetlands. They are ground birds and most are especially fond of dense vegetation in marshlands.

Most birds have bodies that are short and rounded. Though they are able to fly but not powerful flyers and cannot sustain flights for long period. Given the dense vegetation where they are hiding they often prefer to run rather than fly.  One thing leads to another, with less powerful fight muscles reduces the flightless rail's energy expenditures, makes it easier to survive in habitats where resources may be limited. Most species walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes which are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces.

In general, they are shy and secretive birds, avoiding contacts with humans and are difficult to observe. The genus “Porphyrio” prefers floating water hyacinth, but this type of habitat is often disappearing, and we are seeing less and less Purple Swamphens. In the past, the Purple Swamphen and the Common  Moorhens were multiplying at such a fast rate that there were treated as pest for a while.

Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata
Slaty-legged Crake Rallina eurizonoides
Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla
Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca
Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykullii
White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea
Watercock Gallicrex cinerea
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa
Common Coot Fulica atra

Included in this grouping, worldwide there are 142 species and in South east Asia there are 17 species. The record shows that within this number, 14 species have being reported as sighted in Malaysia. Of this number only the Purple Swamphen and the Common Moorhen appear in the open and could be seen with ease. The former skulking in the swampy vegetation and the later swimming in open water. The rest of the birds hardly seen. They will detect the arrival of humans - make for cover earlier long before we could detect their presence. With a bit of luck sometimes encountered at some distances away, the bird would not feel threatened yet.

The pictures, its quality and the number available is good testimony as to the chances of meeting up with the birds. Those could be seen easily and which birds are hardly encountered.

 

White-browed Crake  Porzana cinerea

 

This is a small bird at 21 cm. Seen often in the Greater Sundas and Philippines. Its presence was also detected in North Australia and many Pacific Islands. In Malaysia, it is one of the most common Waterbirds that we could see foraging on reed beds.

The pictures below is very apt as the colors of the Crake plumage is close to that of the dried Water hyacinths. That's exactly what this bird is all about "camouflage". Can be seen in a distant against the green Water Hyacinths leaves, though not in a hurry to dive for covers, the bird is alerted. One step nearer and the bird is gone.

Water edges with dead brown foliages is better preferred. So in remote ponds, look for this type of background setting. With concentration may make out a tiny bird surreptitiously going through the circuit. Choose ponds which are remote and aged with little human movements.

This is one bird I have seen fairly often. But when it comes to locating them, a near impossible task as the birds are wandering and moving the whole day. One good place would be the open country side of Bidor where chances of seeing them is very good.

White-browed Crake # 1

White-browed Crake   # 2

White-browed Crake # 3

White-browed Crake # 4

White-browed Crake  # 5

White-browed Crake  # 6

White-browed Crake # 7

White-browed Crake   # 8

White-browed Crake # 9

White-browed Crake # 10

White-browed Crake  # 11

White-browed Crake  # 12

White-browed Crake # 13

White-browed Crake   # 14

White-browed Crake # 15

White-browed Crake # 16

White-browed Crake  # 17

White-browed Crake  # 18

 

Watercock  Gallicrex cinerea

 

The Watercock indeed is a large bird at 43 cm almost similar in size with the Purple Swamphen. On the contrary with the Swamphen, this bird is seen only at the time of harvest when the tall rice stalks cleared. Other times the bird is extremely sensitive to human approach.  The bird is common a belt from Pakistan, India right across southern China to Japan. It is a common bird in Malaysia.

These few miserable archive photos of mine were taken in Manjung and Malim Nawar. Many times I had seen the bird in the Tanjong Karang rice fields but without any success of getting a shot. The bird is easily spotted when the padi stalk has reached maturity and are tall enough to conceal the birds movements in the area. They are there! But how to get a glimpse of them from afar? Will need your imagination as close encounter is out of question. the bird would not stay for a picture.

Watercock # 1

Watercock   # 2

Watercock  # 3

Watercock  # 4

Watercock   # 5

Watercock   # 6

 

Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus

 

The bird has all the looks and size of the more common Waterhen but really marginally smaller at 31 cm. Like small chicken. A bird from the region of Pakistan, India and Southern China. Then the Greater Sundas and the Philippines. It is a resident in Malaysia.

This is an elusive bird crossing my path several times but never have I seen it remaining still. Except this series of picture taken at distances of over 300 feet away.

It must be some special circumstances when the bird is unaware that it is being watched. Locating its usual hunting grounds and waiting in wait for that moment must be the key in getting their pictures.

Slaty-breasted Rail # 1

Slaty-breasted Rail   # 2

Slaty-breasted Rail  # 3

Slaty-breasted Rail   # 4

Slaty-breasted Rail    # 5

Slaty-breasted Rail    # 6

Slaty-breasted Rail # 7

Slaty-breasted Rail   # 8

Slaty-breasted Rail  # 9

Slaty-breasted Rail   # 10

Slaty-breasted Rail    # 11

Slaty-breasted Rail    # 12

 

Common Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus

 

The Common Moorhen which looks more like a Duck when it is in the water measures in 35 cm. This is a common bird in Africa, Middle East and also found in the Indian Sub-continent. Then also found in the cool region of Tibet, China and Korea. Then southwards towards the Philippines . The bird is resident in malaysia.

After those few difficult to catch birds, sighting the Moorhen is easy. In all my encounters this was a sluggish bird that appeared not to be disturbed by my presence and not in a hurry to hide. Slowly made its way into the tall grasses.

Common Moorhen # 1

Common Moorhen  # 2

Common Moorhen# 3

Common Moorhen # 4

Common Moorhen  # 5

Common Moorhen  # 6

Common Moorhen # 7

Common Moorhen  # 8

Common Moorhen# 9

Common Moorhen # 10

Common Moorhen  # 11

Common Moorhen  # 12

Common Moorhen # 15

Common Moorhen  # 16

Common Moorhen # 17

 

It is rather difficult to add any comments on most of these bird other than saying that they are hardly seen. To make matters worse, there is also a long list of other waterbirds that have no report of sightings at all.

I am still collecting more pictures of them.