Tag Archives: Mount Faber

Helping a dull bird shine – Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) is by no means a dull bird in character. In fact it is one of the liveliest bird around, with the ability to mimic and create a variety of calls and sounds. It has been suggested that it’s ability to mimic other birds, serves the function to create mix-species flocks. The purpose being to steal food (kleptoparasitism) from the member of the flock or to find insects disturbed by other foragers around.

In Singapore, they have been observed following macaques around, probably gathering food or insects disrupted by the activity of these primates. There are many other stories about this very interesting drongo, that I will leave for another time.

Today the attention is towards photography. And unfortunately for the drongo, it’s a rather neglected species photographically. Its plumage colour is a glossy bluish black. That alone is a turn-off for many photographers who would gladly choose more colourful birds. The other thing is that it has a distinctive, long outer tail shafts ending with twisted pendants. That is a very attractive feature, but is challenging composition wise to get a ‘balanced’ picture, without it being blocked or cut off.

So what are the so-called features of a good bird photo? The answers are varied and for every feature I say is good, someone is bound to disagree. But generally, a few things normally stand out.

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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 fromĀ  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.


1. wildbirdSingapore Yahoo Group