Pied Fantail: Call and behaviour

posted in: Vocalisation | 11

“I would like to post a behaviour we have recently observed but with audio recordings rather than visual…

“Pied Fantails (Rhipidura javanica longicaudata) have ‘owned’ our garden for many years and are one of the commonest birds we interact with on a daily basis. They nest in our garden at least 2-3 times a year and are resident year round.

“In the past 6-7 weeks we have noticed a change in the behaviour of the pair in our garden. One of them (?both) have begun to sing early in the mornings for extended periods. We usually get up just before 5 am and often the singing would have already started. They sit at the top of our tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica) and continue for at least the next 1.5 hours. I think it is only one of the pair that sings but have no visual confirmation. They never sing together.

“As we have slow breakfast on our roof at 5 am every morning, we have had weeks to observe (or rather listen to) these calls. They initially start with these notes. This is the more common call and will continue throughout the 1.5 hours.

“Intermittently (usually starting after 30 minutes) they will start to make the second call. I think the same bird is making both calls.

“We are very familiar with both calls in our garden, it is just the continual nature (6-7 weeks) and long duration of singing (>1.5 hrs) that is unusual. It is now 7 am and the Pied Fantail is still singing while I type this.

“We do not think this behaviour is related to breeding (no nest currently); it is not a distress call; it is not a mating issues. Like the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) that loves to sing in the early mornings, perhaps the Pied Fantail has also learned to sing just for the joy of it.

(PS: have a large audio recording of both calls together but too big to post here)

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS & Datin Dr Swee-Im Lim
Canning Garden Home
Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
2nd May 2010

11 Responses

  1. Other birds have been heard calling well before sunrise. Some species identified from their distinct calls are asian koel, kingfishers, sunbirds, mynas, and white-bellied sea eagle.

    Why are birds calling so early?

  2. In rural areas you may get a dawn chorus of many species. In my garden the chorus participants are the yellow-vented bulbul and maybe the spotted dove. Birds are happy to have survived another night, especially diurnal birds that are in danger of being predated in the darkness of the night. Another reason why birds make most calls/songs around dawn is that, maybe, this is the time when predators have yet to start their day?

  3. I watched David Attenborough’s Life of Birds sometime back – as I recall, he is of the view that birds sing when they wake up at dawn, as at that time, it’s still too dark to hunt for food, so birds have little else to do but – sing!
    I also remember another theory that suggests that birds singing in the morning is much like our daily morning bulletin – to announce where they are, what they have been up to and generally exchange news!

  4. It’s the birds’ version of “Morning has broken”.

  5. topioquin

    fantails, i guess are sometimes aggressive birds, they keep on chasing my neighbor’s cat and that happens usually a few minutes after that chirps and hop to the branches , certainly not for food but may be just for frolic ;unfortunately, the poor cat can’t comprehend so she just run away.

    • chito presingular

      Just experienced the singing of the fantail or ‘maria cafra’ as we call them in the Philippines.Whenever i go to our place in Lian Batangas,they always sing to tell me that they are around, i imitate their sounds and they seem to answer as if we’re communicating. then he or she will show up and play or do some circus acts to my delight. saw how she attacked a dog and i was surprised.

      • Fascinating encounter. Thanks for sharing with us.

        • chito presingular

          Thank you YC. It seems that you’ve been checking this site almost once in a while for over 3 years, WOW! the last reply was from topioquin-may 22, 2010. In our province, an old lady warned me that Maria Cafra is indeed a mystic bird. They are ‘mapaglaro’ or playful,they can be deceiving. At first, i can’t understand what she was saying, until i realized that what she is referring to is the probability that the bird might lure me to go with her somewhere that i may never find my way back home.it’s a lot of magic and fantasy, my wife asked me not to play with fantail anymore. Some kind of Folklore. Anyway , Now I’m back in Manila. I wonder if she is just up in the tree outside waiting to call on me…..

  6. gabrianna

    i think this is mystery bird…

    june 12: i woke up to pee at 4:30am and heard this relatively loud bird sound by the window. took my phone to record for almost 2 minutes. it was still dark so i cannot see the bird but i’m sure it was pretty near the house. location is a residential area with fairly abundant trees on vacant lots.


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