Birding Sepilok, Borneo (Half 1)

Sepilok is among the finest locations I ever hung out birding at – I did so for per week and will have simply spent extra time there. So, to be able to economize a bit, the Sepilok birds are described in three separate posts.

The Ashy Tailorbird is an efficient instance of the totally different views of describing a chook – whereas the English identify focuses on the physique of the chook, the Latin species identify ruficeps refers back to the rufous head.

Whereas these pictures are peaceable sufficient, a paper on the predation of an Ashy Tailorbird by a paradise gliding snake has extra dramatic illustrations. Viewer discretion is suggested, notably when you have a look at the paper within the firm of Ashy Tailorbird chicks.

In distinction, a paper on the foraging conduct of two tailorbird species (together with the Ashy Tailorbird) makes for a extra peaceable studying, which is a well mannered method of claiming that I discovered it barely boring. I assume the gratuitous violence within the different paper is extra interesting.

Apparently, there are 12 species of babblers at Sepilok – I solely noticed three of them, partly as a result of their traits (they normally keep near the bottom and like colours corresponding to grey, brown, or black to these colours seemingly worn by newbie cyclists at present [which I take as proof for my theory that most of these cyclists must be color blind]) and partly as a result of I’m not an excellent birder. (I simply re-read the final sentence, discovered it a bit complicated however ultimately determined to depart it unchanged – in spite of everything, it’s you who has to learn it, not me).

Anyway, one of many babblers of Sepilok is the Bornean Black-capped Babbler – the results of a cut up of the Black-capped Babbler (properly, at the very least from a human perspective – the birds themselves are most likely fairly nonchalant about it). Because the cut up solely occurred in 2021, it should most likely take at the very least 5 extra years for the web model of the HBW to create a separate species web page for this babbler. Perhaps the HBW needs to be administered by a college with a stronger curiosity in birds than Cornell.

The cut up makes the chook one of many six species endemic to Sabah, Borneo (supply), 4 of which I noticed throughout my week at Sepilok.

The Brief-tailed Babbler is assessed as Close to Threatened. eBird highlights its “virtually nonexistent stump for a tail” however then the author of this description most probably has no tail in any respect.


I bought alongside pretty properly with the Brief-tailed Babblers at Sepilok as in accordance with eBird, they’re “not as social as different forest babblers”. So we agreed that I simply take just a few pictures of them, then we went our separate methods, not one of the standard spherical of drinks after a photograph taking pictures that appears to be virtually obligatory when coping with most different babbler species.

Probably the most attention-grabbing characteristic of the Chestnut-winged Babbler is the presence of blue pores and skin patches (although I’m afraid that my pictures don’t absolutely do them justice). A paper discusses the operate of those patches, hypothesizing that “blue facial pores and skin features as a visible sign in sexual communication for various species, probably as an indicator of health”. Perhaps that is additionally the place the colourful garments of the cyclists have their origin?

The paper cites the instance of the Blue-footed Booby: Its foot colour turns into duller when the birds are malnourished. If the male’s colour fades after the primary egg, the feminine reacts by laying a smaller second egg – seemingly deciding that it’s higher to chop her losses because the male apparently is the avian equal of a deadbeat father.

The Chestnut-winged Babbler is called one of many host species of the Asian Drongo-cuckoo in Southeast Asia (supply), a declare to fame that the majority chook species would most likely choose to keep away from. However perhaps citing a cuckoo brings good karma, who is aware of …

After the preliminary posting, Andrew Bailey knowledgeable me that after a cut up, the babbler above is now Gray-hooded Babbler. My excuses are that the 2 species look very related, and that I’m not an excellent birder.

The 2 most simply seen pittas of Sepilok have been already mentioned in an earlier put up – the Hooded Pitta

… and the Black-crowned Pitta (one other Sabah endemic).

Whereas monarchies and monarchs needs to be abolished in all places on this planet (word to the Economist: have some ideas on this matter, some spine!), the Black-naped Monarch shouldn’t.

However then, the Black-naped Monarch has by no means claimed to reign by divine proper, nor has it ever been accountable for large-scale wars, slavery, colonialism, and many others. (one thing that the followers of constitutional monarchies appear to neglect, focusing as an alternative on the nice and cozy and fuzzy feeling of getting a monarch as a form of ersatz father).

Realizing that in writing about this I’m speaking (or slightly writing) myself in a heartfelt however presumably very boring and self-righteous nook, let’s get again to the poor chook species which isn’t at fault for being known as a monarch. eBird talks of the “lovely azure-blue male”, which my pictures might not absolutely seize. On the identical time – and perhaps as compensation for the reward showered on the chook’s look – the tune is described as “a bland, unremarkable ‘wi-wi-wi-wi-wi-wi-wi.’” 

My coronary heart sinks a bit when I’m on the lookout for attention-grabbing info on a chook species to go together with my pictures, and the one articles I can discover are both on the mitochondrial genome of the species (sure, we get it! Sure, you may get that info! Most likely with out having a single thought whereas doing it! And you may nonetheless get a paper out of it! You possibly can even add three or 4 of your folks as coauthors – as actually no one is aware of how a lot work such a paper is anyway – and hope they could return the favor later) or a paper with a title like “composition of blended species flocks” or ” survey of avian inhabitants at xy” (these papers are actually simply eBird lists became papers) or papers like “first incidence of chook species xy at location z”. Sadly, it appears that evidently the Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike is such a chook.

The species identify hirundinaceus is a bit unusual – it means “swallow-like”, which when it comes to colour may very well make some sense however other than that, this isn’t a chook resembling a swallow.


The Bornean Black Magpie lacks the white stripes (additionally a band identify: White Stripes, see right here) of the (Malaysian) Black Magpie and is now acknowledged as a separate species. It’s endemic to Borneo.

Within the scientific literature, the Bornean Black Magpie solely makes a really temporary cameo look – a paper describes a brand new genus of chewing lice discovered on the museum specimen of this chook. Why anybody would study a specimen collected in 1888 for mummified chewing lice is a thriller to me, however so is the enchantment of Donald Trump.

I used to be anticipating to see fairly just a few barbets in Sabah however ultimately solely bought first rate pictures of 1, the Brown Barbet. Thankfully, barbets are pretty frequent in Yunnan, China, so it was not a specific disappointment. In actual fact, it is a slightly attention-grabbing barbet, meriting the eBird description as a “distinctive, strange-looking barbet with an enormous invoice and shiny purple legs”.

Given the colour of the invoice (brown, not black), this needs to be a feminine.

I didn’t discover a single paper particularly overlaying this species – only a few informal mentions in papers with titles corresponding to “Elevational distribution patterns of understorey forest chook in Western Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo”. Perhaps a few of the guys spending a lot time on mitochondrial genomes may enterprise out of their labs and do some fieldwork …

The Java Myna appears to be spreading, probably crowding out another myna species such because the …


Widespread Hill Myna.

Apparently, the Larger Coucal is related to some superstitions – in India, seeing one is believed to be auspicious, and in some areas, consuming the flesh was regarded to assist with diseases corresponding to tuberculosis.

In imperial British India, newcomers to India typically mistook the coucal for a pheasant and shot it, solely to be upset, calling it “evil flavored” later. I believe they simply bought what they deserved.

And naturally, some Chinese language researchers labored on the entire mitochondrial genome of the Larger Coucal. Are these the paper mills one sometimes reads about in relation to Chinese language analysis papers?

A pretty obscure paper reviews on the Larger Coucal feeding on a Widespread Myna chick. Now, that’s what we actually need to examine! (“Das ist die Artwork von Gewalt, die wir sehen wollen. Wenn wir auch nichts spueren wollen”, ‘Los Paul‘, Das Trio).

Sepilok is an efficient place to see various woodpecker species. As amongst consultants, it’s a cardinal rule to all the time comply with some form of ordering precept, listed here are 5 Sepilok woodpeckers so as of dimension, ranging from the smallest one. This dimension comparability will will let you simply choose the species that finest serves all of your woodpecker wants.

The smallest on supply is the Rufous Piculet (8-9.5 cm).

It’s clearly the only option when you like your woodpeckers small – eBird explicitly calls it an “completely miniscule woodpecker”

Its scientific species identify is abnormis, and certainly it’s uncommon among the many woodpeckers (although it shares this with another piculets). In actual fact, John MacKinnon (of “Information to the Birds of China”) in a latest Shanghai presentation known as it “not an actual woodpecker in any respect”, and whereas he’s mistaken about that, I type of see his level.

Because the payments of piculets are shorter and fewer dagger-like than these of the opposite woodpeckers, they re-use woodpecker holes for nesting, slightly than making their very own holes. Makes them type of the renters of the woodpecker world slightly than householders.

If the piculet is just a bit bit too small for you, why not go for the Gray-and-buff Woodpecker (13.5 cm)?

Don’t let the scientific identify concretus (massive, sturdy, sturdy) idiot you – it’s certainly a small woodpecker, nevertheless it already fulfills a lot of the wants of common woodpecker prospects.

Apparently, this woodpecker has a considerably uncommon roosting conduct, with secure teams of three and 4 woodpeckers roosting individually in close by cavities, with many extra cavities on the roosting website than woodpeckers. This permits the person birds to change cavities each evening, they usually like this added alternative a lot that the grownup males are even ceaselessly engaged on the excavation of extra cavities (supply).

In shopper merchandise, typically small sizes are solely on supply to make the client really feel higher about going for one thing larger. In that case, perhaps the Banded Woodpecker (23-26 cm) is the best alternative as it’s proper in the course of the Sepilok woodpecker portfolio and thus a really stable alternative for middle-class woodpecker customers.

The species apparently tries to get extra such customers – a scientific paper states that “The Banded Woodpecker (Chrysophlegma miniaceum malaccense) has a ‘classical’ promoting name”.

However, eBird nonetheless regards this woodpecker as small, although with a horny look (“small however brightly-colored woodpecker with a spiky crest”).

So perhaps that dimension shouldn’t be sufficient, and also you need one thing just a bit bit larger, such because the Orange-backed Woodpecker (30 cm)? This species elevates you from these simply searching for a median woodpecker to those that demand a bit extra from their avian selections.

Pleasingly for these choosing this woodpecker, one web site already calls it a “pretty massive woodpecker” – although to be truthful, the HBW calls it “medium-sized”. So, it would simply be the best alternative for discerning woodpecker customers who on the identical time need to keep away from any trace of being flashy.

Lastly, when you already drive a Porsche and need the neighbors to envy you even within the woodpecker realm, the White-bellied Woodpecker (40-48 cm) is the best one for you. Make your neighbors envy you much more after they learn within the HBW that it is a “massive to very massive woodpecker”!

Granted, when you select this woodpecker, your neighbors may additionally consider you as a little bit of a show-off. However when you already drive a Porsche, this could probably not hassle you.

And you may sleep within the secure data that until your neighbors get both a Black Woodpecker or a Nice Slaty Woodpecker, yours will certainly be the largest within the neighborhood. For some males, such issues could also be necessary.

A last benefit of this woodpecker is that with 14 or 15 subspecies (relying on supply), it presents a lot of choices to match your precise woodpecker necessities. And it additionally comes as a video and but one other video.

And now for one thing fully totally different. The gorgeous Crimson-bearded Bee-eater differs from most different bee-eaters in that it isn’t a colonial breeder however slightly nests solitary or in pairs (supply).

Thus on this case the species identify amictus is sensible, as this implies unsociable. It additionally means I’ve discovered one other soulmate within the avian world.

The male and the feminine Crimson-bearded Bee-eater look barely totally different – the lilac crown of the male extends additional and is greater. So, what you see here’s a feminine.

This bee-eater is one other chook species with a considerably underwhelming work ethic. A paper states that “Nyctyornis bee-eaters are sluggish throughout foraging, spending lengthy intervals of time on a look-out perch within the center to higher cover stage and flying down to choose up arthropod prey when noticed”. 

That paper additionally has some good pictures of the Crimson-bearded Bee-eater on the entrance of its nest burrow, feeding its chicks.

The Blue-throated Bee-eater is far smaller than its relative, and simpler to see because it likes to hunt from open wires slightly than contained in the forest.

Whereas about 72% of its chicks are sired by the nominal mother and father, about 7% are the results of intra-specific nest parasitism (i.e., an unrelated feminine dumps an egg right into a nest), 7-12 % are the offspring of the paired male and an extra-pair feminine, and fewer than 5% are the offspring of the paired feminine and an extra-pair male (supply).

Nonetheless, the 28% of chicks not associated to each mother and father could also be one of many causes for the comparatively excessive stage of infanticide among the many chicks (eggs not laid by the paired feminine usually tend to be added at a later stage of the egglaying, as the feminine ejects all eggs put into the nest earlier than she begins laying eggs herself). Thus the infanticide noticed could also be a protecting measure to cut back intra-specific brood parasitism, notably when the meals provide is tight (supply).

At Sepilok, it may be onerous to keep away from taking pictures of some non-birds, corresponding to primates. As , some primates face various courtroom circumstances, each prison and civil ones. Thankfully, those at Sepilok shouldn’t have these points and look marginally extra engaging as properly.




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