Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pied Fantail

     The Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) is a bird that has caught the attention of even non-birdwatchers. A lot of villagers have already noticed the antics and animated behavior of the Pied Fantail. This is the bird that attacks cats and dogs as they go into the garden to do their business or just walk down the street. This feisty bird even attacks its own reflection in a car mirror or house window! When it is not defending its territory from perceived threats, it can be seen hopping through the tree branches, holding its long tail spread out just like beautiful black and white fan.

      In birding terminology, the word “pied” means black and white. The Pied Fantail is a black bird with a white eyebrow, white throat and underparts, and black band across its chest. Its long black tail is edged in white. In Pilipino, this bird is known as maria cafra. It is about 7 ½ inches long.  It has a many different metallic, chime-like calls.

Pied Fantail with its tail folded. Photo by Tonji Ramos
     Pied Fantails usually frequent the same areas day in and day out. In the village, they are frequently found on mango trees and also near garbage cans. Pied Fantails are territorial. However, they have their own concept of a territory that does not follow manmade walls or borders. A Pied Fantail can nest in the mango tree of one house and still consider the yard of the neighboring house part of his territory. 

     Pied Fantails are interesting and amusing birds to observe. They are very active and noisy and constantly fan out and display their beautiful tails. They are one of the birds most likely to be nesting in a typical garden in the village.

Two Pied Fantail links:

View the photo essay "Bird Attacks Cat! And More!"

More Pied Fantail pictures from from our backyard and around the village on our website

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's In a Name?

     One of the things I really love about being a birdwatcher is knowing the names of the birds. I love having each bird's exact name lodged somewhere in my brain. And the names! Birds have such wonderfully descriptive names. Sometimes though, it isn't clear exactly what is being described. Like with a name like "Elegant Tit". But a lot of the time the name fits just right and is simple and to the point, like with "Cattle Egret".

Cattle + Egret = Cattle Egret
     Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) are commonly associated with cattle. They follow behind cows and carabaos, snatching up the insects that are stirred up by the cattle. This ability to exploit man-made feeding opportunities  has allowed the Cattle Egret to expand their range as people have spread cattle farming throughout the world. They are found in every continent except Antartica.

     Cattle Egrets are around 19" long. When they are not breeding, Cattle Egrets are entirely white. During breeding season, they come into their breeding plumage.  The white on the head, neck and chest are replaced with long golden-buff feathers. They also acquire long plumes on their backs.

     The first time I saw a Cattle Egret was in December 2008. We were in the car on the way to Caylabne when we saw them in the fields by the side of the road. At first, I didn't even want to stop the car to look at them. I thought they were domestic ducks! They looked so tame, walking alongside the cows. That, plus their thick bills and white feathers convinced me they were "just" ducks. I was still a newbie birder at the time, and new to the idea that if you look, you'll find wildlife everywhere.  Even in a field of cattle!

Hello 2011!

Today I decided to start writing in this blog again. Even if I'm having problems getting my articles published in the AAVA News. So, here goes.

      I have been walking the 3 dogs every afternoon. I don't usually bring my binoculars with me, but I do look and listen for birds. The usual birds I see are Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Yellow Vented Bulbuls, Long Tailed Shrikes, Brown Shrikes, Olive-backed Sunbirds, and Pied Fantails. Starting about a week ago though, I've been seeing other birds!

     Last week, I saw a Crow on the street behind my house. This was just the second time I've seen a crow outside the Club. In the past week, I've also seen a Crested Myna, Bee-eater, and 2 Coppersmith Barbets. Then, there was also the strange sighting of a chicken-like bird in one of the empty lots near my block. It was strange since the bird looked like a domestic chicken, yet there was no sign of a chicken coop or cage. And the vacant lot where I saw the "alleged chicken" was very overgrown with weeds and even a mango tree that is leaning on its side with its branches almost touching the ground. It's a very wild looking vacant lot and its back wall is along Daang Hari. So, perhaps my eyes were deceiving me and the chicken is actually a wild bird. Worth further investigation.

      Another area to check out is the vacant lot beside the polo field. There were very loud and unusual sounds coming from some of the trees.  Summer is a busy time for birds. It is breeding season for a lot of them, and they are more active and visible than usual.

Barkley and Momo in the vacant lot beside the Polo field