Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Red-crested Nest Raider

We usually hear anecdotes and bits of trivia about birds while out birding with friends. This bird species is a bully while this species is a nest parasite, and this species is a nest raider. We've come to know the behavior of some birds even before we "meet" them. I've learned from other birders that the malkohas are notorious nest raiders --they raid the nests of other birds and take away the chicks for their meal. Sounds terrible, and it's even worse when you get to see it first hand.

Jops and I were in Bangkong Kahoy Valley this weekend with our friends Adri and Trinket and our friend Dave, who was visiting from Taiwan. Towards late afternoon of our first day there, Dave went ahead to his room while the rest of us stayed to bird in the view deck. Our guide, Chris, announced that he was seeing a Red-crested Malkoha from the right side of the deck. I walked over to where he was and trained my binoculars on the black and red bird, perched on the side of a tree trunk.

The Red-crested Malkoha was perched on the side of the tree trunk.
It stayed there for a while, shifting positions constantly.

I took some photos and saw it starting to flail around the spot. I thought it was stuck! I snapped another photo and saw that the bird had stuck its head in... a nest!? It was actually raiding a nest!

Sorry for this very blurry photo of the Malkoha with its head in the nest.
I pressed the shutter button too soon because I was quite shocked.

It kept its head inside the bucket-shaped nest as if looking for something. It then popped its head out and it had something round and white and moving (!) in its beak. Yes, it was a chick... I managed to get a short video clip of the moment it plucked the poor chick out of its nest and then fly away with it. Here's the 7-second video clip (sorry for the loud gasp I made...)



Everyone approached me after hearing me (I think) and we all reviewed the clip. We all knew Malkohas are nest raiders but it was still quite shocking to see it happen in "real life." Adri then put the nest on his scope and he saw some broken eggshells on the edge. We figured the Malkoha broke the egg in the nest and took the unhatched chick for its dinner. 

We all exchanged shocked and saddened faces. Adri said that 80% of nests are unsuccessful. We sighed and shrugged our (heavy) shoulders and acknowledged that we had just witnessed a part of that 80%. Trinket and I saw another part of that 80% the next morning when a Philippine Coucal flew a few meters in front of us, carrying what looked very much like another unhatched chick. Another nest raider in action.

We never found out who the owner of the nest was. The following day, I checked on the nest and there was no activity near it.  I guess as bird watchers, we also get to witness the savage side of nature sometimes.


Post Script:
After reading this post, I remembered an almost-raid also by a Red-crested Malkoha up the trails in Bangkong Kahoy Valley when we went a year ago. It skulked around a nest of a Chestnut-faced Babbler! Click here to read about it.

7 comments:

  1. even watching the video is still "omigosh!" gasp!
    hahaha. the next day with the coucal i don't think we gasped, we just looked at each other with wide eyes!

    nice timeing on the video maia!

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    1. Haha, yeah... we knew what it was carrying na kasi =P

      thanks! sayang lang i wasn't able to video the entire raid =P

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    2. Ok lang, you were able to catch the most exciting part!

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  2. great video, Maia! nature can be cruel sometimes. :(

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    1. Thank you Tito Bob! Yeah, the food pyramid is quite harsh...

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  3. Wow! Spectacular and unique video! From the size of the nest and unhatched chick, the nesting birds must be bigger birds. I will ask my caretaker Chris to try to identify them.

    Regards,
    Ramon Q.

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    1. Thank you, Ramon! Thank you again for your generosity =)

      We waited a bit to see who the owner of the nest was but there was no more activity near it after the raid...

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