© Courting Behaviours of Black-and-Red Broadbill Pair

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“Being one of 14 species worldwide, Black-and-red Broadbills (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos) remain one of tropical lowland forests, enigmatic birds we know so little about; and dwindling in sighting opportunities largely due to habitat loss.

“They have striking deep, red-maroonish plumages and are blessed with cicada like quaky calls- probably their saviour from songsters’ trappers.

“Having a huge, upper mandible of turquoise blue contrasting with lower mandible of yellow to match Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’, they continue to be one of favourite birds in hot pursuit by bird-photographers and ‘switchers’.

“Thought to have been catapulted or abandoned its favourite haunt at Itam Dalam Forest Reserve, Butterworth W. Malaysia for several years, an adult briefly showed up unexpectedly on 5May 2014 (above).

“The green eyed jewel – the likes of emerald stones fabulously displayed at the Topkapi Palace Museum- was observed with nesting material. The bird took flight away from the Forest Reserve.

“The next reappearance of the Broadbills came in a foraging party of a trio on 24thAugust 2014. A sub-adult was photographed (above).

“The presuming family unit continued to be present within vicinity of river edged, mangrove forest for next two weeks. The sub-adult was foraging independently at corner of Reserve while post parenting pair was having their own social time…or perhaps they were in breeding mood?

“Do Black and Red Broadbills (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos) pair bond for several seasons or for life?

“A morning re-visit on 7Sept. confirmed a strong, bonding pair fleeting high amongst the canopy of matured mangrove trees (above).

“It was not easy to differentiate their sex apart from the male appearing slightly larger and with a more overall rounded head (above).

“More observations followed. Eventually I came to conclusion; the likely female was spotted to be with frayed, forked looking tail, it’s under tail bearing one and half pairs of white, slant feathering streaks.

“The other with more macho behaviour- presuming male, wore at least two pairs of white, diagonal streaks on under tail and with rounded tail-tips (above).

“There were a lot of fly-chasing around, both with demurring looks and frequent sharing of common perch. The supposedly male were making more contact attempts at cajoling the female with repetitive neck nudging and rubbing (above).

“The female responded with this pose (above).

“More bird-photographers arrived at the scene.

“The Broadbills were already on sight yet continuous play-back recordings of Broadbill calls were used and unnecessary played out.

“Were these photographers practicing and copying blind from their peers? Perhaps, they thought the birds would fly down, get nearer for clearer shots or sit on their noses?

“Were they aware such erroneous techniques were adding stress to breeding birds and depriving their chances of reproducing?

“The result… it was observed the Broadbill pair became restless and the chase became more fervent with a protective one trying to stay close on same branch, switched places and before settling down, they were off again playing catch up.

“Here is a synchronised, perched image taken by digiscopy x30 magnification and showed a Broadbill pair under stress and anxiety (above).

“During birds’ breeding season, I believe there is only a small window period when birds’ hormones peaked and that’s when one usually sees the males start the chase. If males miss the opportunity to mate, then there will be no chicks for that season and that defeats the ultimate goal of keeping its species alive and healthy.

“It is not as though these forest birds have decades of lifespan like Homo sapiens.

“If miss-opportunity to breed is partly/wholly caused by human intervention due to agitation by obsessive use of playback recordings, poaching and bird caging etc… Homo sapiens become accountable for their actions and the consequence.”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia

Copyright article and all Copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund
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