©A ‘Hat-trick’ with Blue-winged Pitta fledgling 2017 (Batch3) Part1

A FIELD REPORT

“Batch 2 monitoring came to an abrupt end on 16thAugust. I was quite disappointed as I had wanted to see more of the moulting process-post natal moult or prejuvenal moult- meaning moulting from fledgling into juvenal plumage as referred to in The Ornithologist’s Dictionary.

18Aug – “As a follow through to confirm final monitoring of Batch 2, a revisit survey was made to breeding sites of Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis), on mainland Penang, Peninsular Malaysia.

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“It was my 25th visit. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fledgling with fading orangey bill tip and gape foraging alone at bamboo grove-pit stop 1 (above).

13-19Aug (2nd Week)

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“I gauged chick’s age on 18Aug to be just under two weeks old by my calculation. No parental presence noted. Recognised to have sharp, longish post-ocular, bare skin on both eyes, fledgling was too preoccupied foraging to be wary of my presence. I name this single fledgling – JSparrow (above).

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“While my presence was felt but posed no threat to JSparrow, further observations and opportunities were had for almost an hour while chick foraged, rested and preened amongst low and fallen bamboo branches. Preening process also gave a curious, gender hint of JSparrow- a female perhaps? (above, below).

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JSparrow was also hosting a wild boar tick from its neck which bird vigorously scratched but failed to get rid of the parasite (below).

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20-26Aug (3rd Week)

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21Aug – “My 26th visit saw JSparrow in another foraging location, further behind pit stop 1. Its orangey bill tip was no longer visible with natal plumage seen at its finest best during third week (above).

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23Aug – With tick finally dropped off, leaving a feathering depression mark on JSparrow’s neck, fledgling continued to be seen foraging in same area for another day (above).

26Aug – “28th visit and JSparrow had relocated and hiding deeper into forest’s edge, behind a stream. An adult alarm call gave its presence away. A quiet, mixed secondary forest with subdued lighting created by thick canopy of luscious deciduous foliages and discarded moss- quarry rocks, weathered by time was excellent hideout.

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“It was end of 3rd week and post-natal moult had begun. Here are three views of Blue-winged Pitta’s fledgling in first moult. Side view – (above).

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“Head view (above) 1st stage moult began with change at head and neck feathers.

“Gradual loss of natal feathers was prominent at neck region with white, spiked feather shafts gradually being pushed out as seen over black head sides and face.

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“Front view (above). Downy feathers on chest and belly were beginning to loosen heralding a second stage of moult. Throat feathers had also turned spiky.

27Aug-2Sept (4th week)

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29Aug – “29th visit saw quite a transformation (above).

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“While retaining an orangey gape, JSparrow had lost most of its white shafts’ head feathers and replaced with new set of black, smooth feather (above).

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“White neck –mantel feathers too were in replacement process. Breast and belly downy feathers were observed to be in full blown moult, knotted in places and a feather spotted came loose whilst preening (above, below).

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“Captured on video, while primary/secondary feathers appeared to remain intact, natal covert feathers were in process of a change over (below).

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“Moult was also observed on JSparrow’s back of green feathers (below).

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“JSparrow appeared settled, unperturbed by my presence and remained at the stream forest.

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30thAug “My 30th visit sprang another surprise while JSparrow was observed foraging in usual area of leaf littered ground (above).

“A new coat of head and neck feathers almost replaced, final moult accentuated on back and rump, the fledgling-juvenile was about to…”

“To be continued…”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang Malaysia
20th November 2017-11-20

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

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