Adult Blue Whistling Thrush with prey for young

“The many limestone hills surrounding Ipoh City are home to the Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus crassirostris).

“Came across an adult feeding a juvenile. The other adult in this pair was looking after the second juvenile, but I could only hear them and did not see them. The juvenile was not easy to capture on camera as the adult kept it a dark cave and I did not use any flash so as not to distress the parent/juvenile.

“I will start by showing some pictures of the adult. I could not see all the prey brought to the young but this large frog was a prize (above). (I have [also] seen it feed on large snails, earthworms.) After the adult had caught it, it was taken to some rocks to be killed and then offered to the juvenile…

“Some pictures of the juvenile receiving a frog form the adults (above). The first two attempts were failures as the juvenile could not swallow the huge frog and dropped it. The parents then took the frog away to smash it and return with it in smaller pieces. I am not sure why the parent did not intuitively know this from the beginning.

“The juvenile, while waiting for the parent, has this odd habit of picking up stones, as though to eat (left). Saw this at least four times. Not sure if this is training for foraging in the future or just hunger and ignorance (or medicinal value). Notice in these pictures that the juvenile is developing blue plumage on the wings.

“The adult can look quite dark in limited light – see the two pictures in bright light (below left) and in shade (below right).

“This recording [of the adult] has been amplified and the space between calls shortened to allow it to be posted HERE. The time between calls varies between 13 to 50 seconds, in a few of my recordings. When making this call the adult will run forward a little or jerk forward. It will then close the tail, often lifting it as well as lift the head (have shaky hand held videos of this). At the end of the call the tail will be partially opened as a fan. The adult appeared to be listening intently between calls, perhaps for an answer from the mate. I did not hear one but my ears may not be as sensitive.

“The adult has a piercing whistle, one that often alerts you to the presence of this bird. It carries for some distance and may be used as a communication tool between adults, or between the adult and the juveniles. This is the classical call and one that gives it its name. This recording has been amplified and the space between calls shortened to allow it to be posted here. The time between calls varies between 13 to 50 seconds, in a few of my recordings.

“When making this call the adult will run forward a little or jerk forward. It will then close the tail, often lifting it as well as lift the head (have shaky hand held videos of this). At the end of the call the tail will be partially opened as a fan.

“The adult appeared to be listening intently between calls, perhaps for an answer from the mate. I did not hear one but my ears may not be as sensitive.

“A recording of the soft sharp calls (cheep) of the juvenile (amplified but you may need to step up your volume a little).. HERE-. The juvenile kept this up as long as the parent did into bring food. When food came near the call reached a crescendo. Once it had eaten a sizeable part of the frog it called less often.

“The juvenile was also not approached too closely (however the parent was quite accepting on my presence, so credit goes to this kind adult for the images). Picture of the juvenile who has already fledged – occasionally likes to stand on one leg (left).

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Limestone hills surrounding Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
10th October 2010

Red Data: Locally near threatened, bordering on vulnerable (see Wells 2007)
Disclosure: No flash was used at any time to minimise disturbance.

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