Blue Rock-thrush around Ipoh’s limestone hills

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Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius madoci) is easy to spot at many of the limestone hills surrounding Ipoh City, in the Malaysia state of Perak.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS first made the acquaintance of these shy birds on 9th June 1986 when he and his wife were living near a limestone outcrop. They were then having breakfast at a corner coffee shop, sitting in the open air section, when this nondescript bird hopped by to scavenge scraps fallen to the ground.

At firs4 glance it was easy to mistake it for a starling but on close scrutiny it turned out to be a Madoc’s Blue Rock Thrush. Since then they have returned intermittently to these limestone hills to observe these fascinating birds – their plumage colour is very dependent on lighting.

“On this day I spotted six of them over a 1 km stretch of broken limestone hills – four adults two of whom had partners,” wrote Amar on 8th May 2010. “Songs recorded. They love to hop on the ground looking for scraps. They are generally shy except for some pairs that have got used to the many human visitors to the cave temples. The f%male I am posting here is a regular at this cave temple with her mate. She is in breeding plumage… (above).

“Occasionally we all have these magical moment when birds extend some trust to us and allow us to observe them at close range. One of the six Madoc’s Blue Rock-thrush… did that for me. I arrived just at the right moment (required permission to enter this limestone hill religious sanctuary). This male in full breeding plumage arrived at the same spot just as I did (above). He was after some fallen Ficus benjamina fruit – they forage on the ground and do not seem to pick fruit off the tree. He saw me just 2-3 meter away at the base of the tree but the call of the fruit was too strong. He hopped down almost at my feet to forage, initially too close for pictures. The change in plumage in different lighting was dramatic. In the shade he looks rich blue like the M. solitarius pandoo (above left). But in strong light he looks speckled blue with brighter patches on the forehead (above right).”

The two calls recorded can be heard HERE and HERE.

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