Monthly Archives: May 2014

Asian Palm Civet in Singapore

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), also called toddy cat in English, and musang in Malaysia/Indonesia and sometimes luwak in the latter.

Asian Palm Civet

It is a nocturnal animal, that is good climber. It feeds on fruits mainly but occasionally eats smaller mammals and insects. It also feeds on palm flower sap which when fermented becomes toddy, hence the alternate English name.

It is the same animal that is the source of Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, one of the world’s most expensive coffee. Made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the animal, then passed through its digestive tract. It is the commercial production of this type of coffee that threatens the wild population of civets as increasing number are captured and ‘farmed’ for the coffee beans.

Asian Palm Civet

In Singapore, civets can be found in forested areas of Singapore and also near urban areas, especially the Siglap area. This particular civet was found at the former Bidadari Muslim cemetery at dusk in October 2012. It was probably the start of it’s evening food round.

Asian Palm Civet

Upon contact with with human, it quickly ran up a tree where it stayed around for a few moments before quickly disappearing into surrounding vegetation.

 

Green Imperial Pigeon – Status in Singapore

The Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea) is a species of forest pigeon. It a large bird, with green-blue metallic sheen on its wings, back and tail. Its head and underparts are off-white.

Its usual range covers southern Asia from India to Indonesia

Historically, this species have been listed as a resident in small numbers at the coastal area (Gibson-Hill 1949)1

Presently in Singapore, it is listed as a non-breeding visitor with it’s usual stronghold in Pulau Tekong where sightings are more common.

Green Imperial Pigeon

In 2011, they were sighted in the adjacent Pulau Ubin between the months of June and August. Up to 5 were perched on a single tree in one afternoon.

Green Imperial Pigeon

Green Imperial Pigeon

Green Imperial Pigeon

Green Imperial Pigeon

In the mainland, there were sightings in Pasir Ris Park area in early 2012. In March 2013, the birds were seen in an industrial estate in Loyang. Ever since then, they has made regular appearances there, whenever the Macarthur Palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii) fruits in the area.

As an observation, the pigeons swallow the ripe palm fruits whole as the sequence of pictures shows.

Green Imperial Pigeon

Green Imperial Pigeon

With the knowledge of the regular presence of the pigeon in the area, the first report of nesting came in late March 2014, with a single chick hatched subsequently. By May 2014, it seems that the chick has fledged and with that the first breeding record of this species have been documented.

In the span of 3 years, this species appears to have dispersed from Pulau Tekong to Pulau Ubin and then to the mainland. And finally in an unlikely turn of events, it started breeding in an industrial estate, feeding mainly on an introduced exotic palm species.

References
1. Gibson-Hall (1949) A Checklist of the Birds of Singapore Island

Red-billed Blue Magpie – Status in Singapore

The Red-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha) is a striking looking magpie species. As the name suggest, it has a red bill and also red legs. It’s head, neck and breast are black with a bluish spotting on the crown. It’s shoulders and rump are a duller blue and the underparts are a greyish cream. The long tail is a brighter blue.

Red-billed Blue Magpie

It’s usual range cover northern India, the Himalayas, northern parts of South East Asia up to China.

It’s presence in Singapore has been reported dating back to at least 2001 (wildbirdSingapore)1. Reports of sightings have been concentrated mainly in the Southern Ridges, covering anywhere from Mount Faber to Kent Ridge Park and adjacent areas.

It has been speculated that the birds originated from the illegal bird smuggling activities from  the southern coast and outer islands of Singapore as illegal smugglers came in from the Riau Islands, with reports of housing station for these birds located along Pasir Panjang Road (wildbirdSingapore)1

Whatever the case of their origin, the magpies have been around for more than a dozen years with regular sightings ever since with individual sightings of 9-10 birds reported. Have they established a feral population or are the sightings of original released/escaped birds? No one can be certain, as magpies in general can live up to a decade, and breeding records are not available.

What we do know is that these magpies have been mating. This have been observed in April 2013 in the below photographs.

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Notice the position of the male’s legs. One is wedged on the female’s leg to prevent her from jumping off. The other is holding on to the wings of the female to prevent flying.

Red-billed Blue Magpie

The actual act, like most other birds mating is brief and vigorous. No further observations of the fate of these birds as they tend to roam around. No nesting records are known.

So what is their diet?

Red-billed Blue Magpie

The partial answer is that sometimes they visit nearby buildings to rummage through the nearby garbage collection points. Here it is observed eating cooked rice grains from one such building.

What we can conclude is that there magpies are roaming around the Southern Ridges, are adaptable enough to be around for more than a decade, have managed to adapt at least some parts of their diet to reflect their urban settings.

Most of the pictures taken here are from my office building which is opposite Kent Ridge Park over a period of 3 years. And in most of the sighting, they come in pairs or in groups.

I leave you with some more pictures of these magnificent, hardy birds.

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Red-billed Blue Magpie

 

Video taken handheld and stabilized in post. Please pardon the jerkiness.

 

Reference:
1. wildbirdSingapore Yahoo Group

Oriental Pied Hornbill – Ballistic transport feeding

One of the joy of birding is to observe behaviour of birds in the field and then having done so, be educated by a fellow birder as to what it all meant.

I had the opportunity to observe a family of Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) flying towards a kampung house at Pulau Ubin. One of the adult proceeded to land on a large papaya tree. This tree happen to have one ripe papaya fruit.

Soon enough the hornbill dug into the fruit itself and then retrieve the flesh. It the proceeded to flip the morsel and then with the mouth wide open, swallowed it whole. This method of feeding is call “ballistic transport” and is practiced by hornbills and toucans.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
The hornbill using its powerful bill to tear into the the papaya fruit.
 

Oriental Pied Hornbill
The flip and swallow routine
 

Oriental Pied Hornbill
A closer look at another instance. Notice the shape of the morsel is different.
 

Oriental Pied Hornbill
Yet another instance, this time at a different, steeper head angle.
 

Oriental Pied Hornbill
After one side is done, it goes for the other side. A messy eater.
 

Oriental Pied Hornbill
In between feeding time.
 

Oriental Pied Hornbill
All the while, the juvenile is perched quietly just below the papaya tree. As it has the same pose, you can compare its relative proportion.
 

Soon after these photos were taken, a group of weekend cyclist came by a bit too close. The whole family flew off to another location, and the papaya was left half eaten.

In summary, we know that Oriental Pied Hornbills like ripe papaya fruits, they tear into the fruit using their powerful bill to retrieve morsels of flesh, are messy eaters and then use ballistic transport to feed themselves.

 

Reference:
Ballistic transport (“flip and catch”) feeding in hornbills