Pygmy Wren-babbler – nest building

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“Disclosure: I was privileged to watch a pair of Pygmy Wren-babblers (Pnoepyga pusilla) nest building. I watched them on three separate periods over 3 hours, for a total period of observation of 40 minutes. I broke up the observation to give them a break from my presence, although they seem to adjust to my being there. I used only handheld photography or videography, with no flash and positioned myself about 7-8 meters from the nest.

“I came across them on a lonely trail adjacent to a rushing stream. It is a location covered by the primary forest canopy. The nest was built into the slope by the side of the trail about 0.75 meters up. It is not possible to visualise the nest as it is covered by a screen of moss and ferns (above, one adult looking out from the nest).

“Both birds were involved in building the nest, although I did see one foraging while the other was actively building. They came one after the other with nesting material but both could be in the nest at the same time (above, a fortunate image with both present and with nesting material consisting of all three mentioned above).

“Nesting material was consistently collected from the darker forest floor across the stream and not from around the nest. Much of their movements was walking or short hops. Nesting material included roots (possibly also the rhizomes of ferns), some moss and a black fiber which I am fairly sure is dried fern stalks (petiole/stipe). Nest material collection episodes are fast with 2-3 every 5 minutes (above and below are of adults with nesting material, below with black fiber).

“I took a number short videos and edited and merged them to try and give an idea of the activity. Bear in mind that they are handheld. The birds will cross a stream using the same few rocks. They then come to their ‘signature rock’ which is located on one side of the path. From this moss covered rock they will either launch out straight to the nest or carefully creep across the path in short hops. They then rapidly nip into the nest and only external movement can be appreciated. The exit is a rapid flight out to their ‘signature rock’ and a return across the stream for more nesting material.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
1st April 2015

Location: 1,600m ASL, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Habitat: A trial along primary montane forest adjacent to a rushing stream

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