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Thursday, 11 November 2021

11.11.2021 - Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata)

Name: Zebra Dove  
Other Names: Barred Ground Dove 
Scientific Name: Geopelia striata
Local Name (Malay): Merbuk Aman / Merbuk Balam / Ketitir
Measurements: 20 -23 cm

Zebra doves are one of the many common garden variety birds we have here in Malaysia. Often seen in pairs or in 2 to 3 numbers foraging for seeds on the ground, as its genus implies; "Geo" means ground, and "peleia" means dove (in Greek). The term "striata" refers to its barred (striated in Latin) plumage. 


Zebra doves are small and slender birds with long and narrow tail. Upperpart is brownish grey with black barrings; boldly barred in black on the neck and side of its breast. Underpart is pinkish with black barrings on the side of the belly. Face is grey with bluish "eye ring" skin. It has been mentioned by  that adult female zebra doves has a "narrower" pinkish chest plumage compared to those males. As for juveniles, the pinkish chest plumage is absent, replaced by barrings across the breast. Its crown and nape also barred. 

Although sexing through plumage had been mentioned for this dove, its always the best done by observing its behavior in the field. Male birds can be distinguished from females through its "bowing" during the courtship and also during copulation. Its usual call is a rapid series of short "coos". It also makes a guttural sound during nesting time. I have also seen some Zebra doves making a rapid tapping sound to warn other doves; its like series of fast beak tapping sound to be exact. Both male and female are good "coo-ers".

Status and Distribution:

Common resident of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

Geographical Variation:

None. Monotypic


Mostly forage for seed on the ground and short grassed plains, either in pairs or in a small group consist of 2 to 4 doves. Some bold enough to get closer to humans. At times joins other birds, such as Rock Pigeons and Eurasian Tree Sparrows feeding on grains fed by humans. Produces "wing whistles" in flight. Mutual grooming had been observed between pairs and (small) group members.


Open country, cultivated land, gardens and parks


Breeding season is from September to June. Male birds court the female by a bowing, raising and spreading the tail. From my observation made, few times when a pair of doves nesting on a hanging flower pot at home, male dove will select a nesting spot and gives out a crackling call to the female; the male then copulates the female. 

Nest is build with mesh of plant fibers, roots, small twigs even synthetic broom fibers; in most cases 2 white eggs (at times 3 eggs) are laid.  The eggs hatch after 2 weeks of incubation. Incubation is done by both male and female by taking turns. Chicks are fed with crop milk by the parents and later will introduce a proportion of softened adult food. When parents are not at the nest, the chicks will respond to threats by raising up their wings vertically. The chicks will be able to fledge in 2 weeks time and remain around nesting area for few weeks.

Conservation Status:

Least Concern based on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Zebra doves are trapped from wild and bred for songbird competitions and commonly sold in pet shops for those who wish to buy and free the birds, in the believe of bad karma removal.

  1. Craig Robson, 2017, A Field Guide to The Birds of South East Asia, Bloomsbury,  London.
  2. YC Wee, April 2018, Zebra Dove: Adult Male, Female and Juvenile, Bird Ecology Study Group,

Zebra Dove - Selangor

Zebra Dove - Selangor

Zebra Dove nest on a hanging pot at home

Zebra Dove nestling in threat pose

An immature Zebra Dove - Selangor

Zebra Dove - Selangor

Zebra Dove - Selangor

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

26.10.2021 - Global Big Day 9th Oct 2021 at Putrajaya Wetland Park

Greeting guys! I was on "birding from home" for two Global Big Day previously. On 9th Oct 2021, I had a chance to have it at Putrajaya Wetland Park. Started a bit late actually, arrived at the park at 9:40am. 

First to welcome me was an immature Oriental Magpie Robin, which posed very well for me before it flew away. I proceed to walk towards the Flamingo Pond, and heard the Brown Throated Sunbirds and Lineated Barbets.

An immature Oriental Magpie Robin

There was a fruiting tree, where two Lineated Barbets were busy picking up the fruits, joined by the Javan Mynas and a female Asian Koel.

A female Asian Koel.

I proceed to walk to the lakes. Surprisingly no water birds available, similar to my previous visits. Maybe I always come on wrong timing or what? On my previous visit I managed to get Grey Headed Swamphen. This time the whole place was quiet. 

I keep on walking till I reached the Pelican area. Along the way manage to get some common birds. The complete lists is available at ebird Malaysia.

Blue Tailed Bee-eater

A female Pied Thriller

A total of 24 species observed in an hour time here. 

Ebird Malaysia Screenshot

Thursday, 22 July 2021

22.07.2021 - Birds of Taman Sentosa, Klang.

I was from Perak, from Bidor exactly. My neighborhood those days surrounded with all those birds which are now a rare sight, i.e. the White Bellied Woodpeckers., 3 to 4 of them flying towards the abandoned rubber estate every morning and leave before sun set. Once completed my internship, I had to shift to Klang, and it was totally different "habitat" for me. I had a big gap in birding here, since busy with my first job, did not have my own vehicle plus I did not know much about the places.

The worst news is, my bird notes and bird feather collection books, which I kept for more than 10 years, went missing when we shifted from Bidor to Klang. It was a great lost. Although some notes are still in my memory till now, some I cannot recall. I created a file in Ms Excel and started to put the notes that I could remember, the best I could do at that time.

Back to Taman Sentosa, my current neighborhood, is actually not that bad for birds as we still have abandoned lands and plantation around, still. I even had seen few Lesser Whistling Ducks flew from the treatment ponds and pumping stations here. Below is the list of birds so far observed in Taman Sentosa:

Little Heron, well established along the monsoon drains at Taman Sentosa, at times can be seen preening on a utility cable.

Black Naped Oriole, which visited my house during the first MCO, the first bird I photographed after I changed my manual 70-300mm lens to AF 70-300mm lens.

A male Asian Koel, which was photographed during a duel with another male Koel. The duel went on for an hour, or even more since I left the location earlier.

Crested Serpent Eagle, can be seen on utility poles at certain areas in Taman Sentosa. This one captured when it was on thermal above my home.

Usually seen flying pass by my home, this Asian Glossy Starling came down for quenching its thirst during a hot day.

Yellow Vented Bulbuls are often seen near my house, yet this one was looking for insects among my garden plants, finally gulped a ripe curry leaf fruit.

The commonest bird around my house, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and this is an immature bird perched along with few adults on a potted desert rose plant.

Olive Backed Sunbirds usually visit my hibiscus patch, and it made me to make a sunbird feeder during first MCO, it could be the very first feeder made so far for sunbirds.

Spotted Doves usually seen on roof tops during morning and evening, and this is a male bird cooing on an evening. It often seen foraging for food at the backyard.

Javan Mynas as usual very common, exist along with the resident Common Mynas

White Throated Kingfisher, frequently seen perching on the handrails along the monsoon drains.

One of my nearest and commonest migrant, the Brown Shrike.

Little Egret, adapted well in urban areas, usually seen along the monsoon drains.

A surprise visitor to the monsoon drains here at Taman Sentosa, the Asian Openbill Storks.

For this year, I manage to see a small group of Chestnut Winged Cuckoos in a feeding frenzy, plus a Chestnut Bellied Malkoha, which are the newly added birds in the list, for this year so far. As long as we have some green patches among the housing areas here, I can still see these birds easily. We may lose these areas for development, I do not know it may or may not. If it happens, the population and the number species existing in Taman Sentosa may drop. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

20.07.2021 - Birds Identification - Part 4

Well folks, after a long gap indeed, we are going to continue to discuss on the features of birds which helps to ID them. The tail! Tail is another obvious feature of a bird. You may note on the length of its tail: long, medium or short, or even its approximate ratio compared to its body length, i.e. twice the length of its body. 

Most of the time, the tail is a display ornament for mating, for an example the game birds or fowls. The tail feathers are much elongated and colorful in male birds. Healthier males have much beautiful and attractive tail feathers; females' choose such males to have a healthier offspring. 

A male Pin Tailed Whydah with its long tail. Photo by: Capt Kumar (Singapore)

Its a good highlight for gender identification for some birds, i.e. Indian Paradise Flycatcher, where males have much elongated central tail feathers while the females are short tailed. However, be very careful at some times the male may have loss their elongated tail feathers, thus it may look like a female. In such cases, we have to look into other features which may help us on the gender identification.

A male Indian Paradise Flycatcher (in moult). Photo By: Supriya Malhotra (Calcutta)

Greater Racket Tailed Drongo. Photo by: Saravanan Palanisamy (Shah Alam, Selangor)

When it comes to flight, tail produce the lift, supplementing the lift produce by the wings. It also influences flight maneuverability and agility. The tail also act as a stabilizer when they perch. For woodpeckers, the tail works together with its feet, to adds the stability and support during their perch on vertical surfaces. 

A male and female Common Flame-back Woodpeckers. Photo by: Saravanan Palanisamy (Shah Alam, Selangor)

Pin Tailed Parrot Finch. Photo by: Ng Jung Chuan (Fraser's Hill, Pahang)

Next, the shape of the tail. Below are the examples of the tail shapes:

Tail Shapes of Birds

Another way to use tail as a feature to ID is their length compared to the wings. One such example, the Slender Billed Crow. When folded, the wings of a Slender Billed Crow are slightly longer than its tail. This feature is helpful to differentiate this crow from the Large Billed Crow, which shares similar habitat. 

(Thanks to those contributed photographs and informations for this blog entry: Terence Ang, Capt Kumar, Supriya Malhotra, Ng Jung Chuan)

To Be Continued...

Monday, 19 April 2021

19.04.2021 - Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus)

Name: Tiger Shrike
Scientific Name: Lanius tigrinus
Other names: Thick Billed Shrike
Local/Malay Name: Tirjup Harimau

Tiger Shrikes are birds from the shrike family, smaller and stocky predatory birds, with striped back, rump and flanks which gave its English and specific epithet, tigrinus, which means tiger-like.


Tiger Shrikes are fairly smaller shrikes compared to other two shrikes we have it in Malaysia.  It has rather shorter tail and thicker bill, which gave it another name, “Thick Billed Shrike”. Adult male has grey head, crown, nape and mantle. Lower mantle, scapular, back, rump and upper tail coverts are rufous brown with black barring. Wings are dull brown with some pale tipped feathers. Tail is reddish brown, graduated and with pale tips. Underparts are white with barring on the flanks. Bill is heavy, black tipped with paler base. Eyes are dark brown. Adult females are paler than males, with browner with less grey crown and nape. Black “mask” is less prominent and lore is paler. Sometimes appear with short white eyebrow. Underpart is buff with strong barring on the belly and flanks. Juvenile Tiger Shrikes have reddish brown with black barring on its crown, forehead, lores and ear coverts. Heavier barring on the back, rump and upper tail coverts. Underparts resemble those of female tiger shrikes.



Moult twice a year: (i). Post breeding moult during late summer at its breeding region – July to September, (ii). Pre breeding moult, at its wintering region, between December to April. In Malaysia we have two age groups arrive during autumn: (i). First winter: No “facemask”, head and nape entirely brown with heavy barring. (ii). Adult: head and nape have a combination of grey and brown barred feathers. “Facemask” partially developed. The extent of post breeding moult is variable.

Status and Distribution:

Fairly common winter visitor (non-breeding) in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak – September to May. Immatures are more common in Peninsular Malaysia. Refer to Picture 1 for the tiger shrike’s global range.

Confusion Species:

At times confused with first winter/immature brown shrikes due to the barred plumage. Tiger shrike can be distinguished from brown shrikes by their smaller size, heavier bill and shorter tail. Its choice of habitat is rather different since it prefers forest edges and much wooded areas compared to the brown shrikes, which lurks around open grasslands.

Geographical Variation:

None. Monotypic


Similar behavior like Brown Shrikes. Skittish. Solitary in nature. Sit and wait for its prey from a prominent position. Hunting method is similar to those Brown Shrikes. It lunges on the ground to grab its prey and fly back to its perch. It also forages for prey from branches and leaves of all level (ground to canopy). Also seen using its feet to grab the prey while feeding. Prey impaling also been recorded. Similar as Brown Shrikes, its preys on insects, invertebrates and small vertebrates such as small frogs, lizards, even small birds and rodents. It calls consist of 3 to 4 notes of harsh thrills, “shrek-shrek-shrek” followed by a rapid burst of rattling notes. Somehow most of its call seem to be similar to those Brown Shrikes.

Picture 1: Breeding and Non-Breeding Range of Tiger Shrike 


Forest edge, orchards, wooded lands and country side. Also occurs at altitude up to 800m, especially at wintering regions.



Breeding season is between May and July. Monogamous. Pair formation occurs during the northward migration and also as soon as it arrives to its breeding ground. Males will perch beside females and will be bowing up and down, move its head side by side, with uttering a soft version of its usual call. A fast flight display also will occur. Its very similar to the mating display of a Brown Shrike, which led for hybridization between both species. Nest built by both male and female. Nest is cup shaped and thick walled, made with twigs, grasses, weed stems and roots. It is lined with fine grasses and moss. Nest is built in 5 to 7 days on a deciduous tree at 1.5 to 5 m high. 3 to 6 eggs are laid, which varies in color (white/pinkish/pale orange/bluish green with brown/violet spots and streaks). Incubation done by female alone. Incubation period is at 14 to 16 days. Nestlings fledge after 14 days and will remain around the nesting area for 2 weeks.

Conservation Status:

Least Concern. However, the population trend is declining, due to climatic changes and habitat destruction as well as some are trapped and traded as cage birds.



    1. Craig Robson, 2017, A Field Guide to The Birds of South East Asia, Bloomsbury,  London.
    2. Handbook to Birds of the World, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Collins, Grafton Street, London

A First Winter Tiger Shrike. Photo by: Terence Ang (Selangor)

A Non Breeding Adult Tiger Shrike. Photo by: James Phang (Johor)

First Winter Tiger Shrike. Photo By: James Phang (Johor)

A Non Breeding Adult Tiger Shrike, holding its prey with its leg. Photo By: James Phang (Johor)

A male Tiger Shrike - Non Breeding. Photo By: Sanjeev Gopalan (Penang)

A Non Breeding Adult Tiger Shrike. Photo by: Saravanan Palanisamy (Shah Alam)

Saturday, 23 January 2021

23.01.2021 - Long Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)

Name: Long Tailed Shrike
Scientific Name: Lanius schach
Other names: Rufous Backed Shrike
Local/Malay Name: Tirjup Ekor Panjang

Long Tailed Shrikes are birds from the shrike family, medium sized predatory birds, with fairly longer tail, which gave its English name. Its Latin name: “Lanius” means butcher, which related to the feeding behavior of some shrikes, while “schach” which is a name given based on the phonetic representation of the bird’s call. The English name “shrike” derived from Old English writing, “shriek”, which defines its shrill call.

Long Tailed Shrike (L.s.bentet)


Long Tailed Shrike is a medium sized bird with black forehead and eye-stripe. The crown and mantle are grey, wings are black. Underparts are white with rufous flanks and rump. Its tail is long and narrow. There are 2 subspecies of these shrikes occur in Malaysia:


·         L. s. bentet

·         L. s. nasutus

The commonest subspecies occurs in Malaysia is the bentet” race. “Bentet” was mentioned as the local Javan name for the Long-Tailed Shrikes. Adult male has black forehead and eye-stripe, grey crown and back. Underpart is white. Scapular, rump and flanks washed in peach. Wings are black, the secondaries fringed with white, along with white patches on the base of the primaries. Its long, graduated and narrow tail is black with pale rufous fringe on the outer feathers. Males and females are alike. 

Juvenile Long Tailed Shrikes are paler, with some barring on the upperpart, chest and on the flanks. There is a variation of “bentet” race recorded in Sabah, with same plumage except for its black forehead and black-washed crown, merging with its grey nape. 

The “nasutus” race however is a less -common subspecies of Long Tailed Shrike, which occurs in Sabah. It has been recorded in Kota Marudu, Sabah, in the year 2017/2018. Adult birds are similar to those “bentet” race, but it has a black head and grey back.

A variation of L.s.bentet photographed by Mala&Adi at Sipitang, Sabah

Status and Distribution:

 Resident in Peninsular Malaysia and Resident/Migrant in East Malaysia.

Confusion Species:

Long Tailed Shrikes are easily distinguishable from the locally available shrikes (Brown and Tiger Shrikes), by its long black tail, and the white patch on its upper wings during its flight.

Geographical Variation:

The black masked “Bentet” race occurs in Peninsular Malaysia, East Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Lesser Sunda Islands. “Nasutus” race, the black capped subspecies occurs in Philippines and East Malaysia (Sabah). (Refer to Picture 1) 

Picture 1: Distribution of Long Tailed Shrike


Similar behavior like Brown Shrikes. Skittish. Most solitary in nature, with a very small hunting territory. Adults have been seen in 20m gap (Hulu Langat, Selangor, 2020). Hunts from a vantage point, can be just a meter away from the ground. Seldom seen on high perch. Hunting method is similar to those Brown Shrikes. It lunges on the ground to grab its prey and fly back to its perch.

Long Tailed Shrike (L.s.bentet

Also seen using its feet to grab the prey while feeding. Prey impaling also been recorded. Similar as Brown Shrikes, its preys on insects, invertebrates and small vertebrates such as small frogs, lizards, even smaller birds. It calls consist of soft and harsh chirpings and quarreling like calls, which may resemble other birds’ calls. It learns to mimic the birds’ or other animals’ call within its habitat.

A Long Tailed Shrike, grabbing its prey with its feet


Open country and grasslands with scattered shrubs and bushes, plantations, rice fields and other cultivated lands.


Breeding season for the Long Tailed Shrike in Peninsula Malaysia is between July and September. Nests are built by both male and female shrikes less than 5m high. The nest is loosely built, in cup shape with roots, small twigs, dried long grasses (“Lalang”) and with some man-made materials, i.e., plastic strings. 3 to 6, whitish, brown mottled eggs are laid and incubated for 14 to 16 days, mostly by females. 

Males may take turn with the females at times. Chicks may fledge in about 20 days. Young birds may feed themselves in 25 days after hatching, and will remain with parent birds for 10 weeks. However, there are cases of fledglings stay with the parent birds longer than the mentioned time.

Long Tailed Shrike photographed by Terence Ang.

Conservation Status:

Least Concern. However, the population trend is declining, due to climatic changes and habitat destruction. Long Tailed Shrikes are trapped (at times, nestlings are collected) and traded widely for its demand and popularity as a cage bird. In Indonesia, competitions are held annually among shrike keepers, to declare winner based on the quality of the shrike’s call.  


  1. Craig Robson, 2017, A Field Guide to The Birds of South East Asia, Bloomsbury, London. 
  2. Handbook to Birds of the World, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Collins, Grafton Street, London