Saturday, 26 January 2008

The Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)

After the Spotted Dove or Tekukur this bird is perhaps the most common “ground” pigeon on Borneo. And with its emerald green irridescent feathers on its back and wings it is the handsomest too. It is featured on the current RM1 Malaysian postage stamp where it is labelled as "Green-winged Pigeon" a named prefered by many birders, though to me "Emerald Dove" sounds more elegant and befitting this gem of a bird.

Originally a bird of the rainforest and secondary jungle it is now also commonly found in plantations and farms, singly or in pairs on the ground busily looking for food which consist of small seeds, fallen fruits and reportedly, insects including ants and flies. Sometimes it is seen flying low at amazing speed expertly weaving in between trees like a green flying ball. However accidents do occur!

This bird pictured in my hand hit a wall and crashed to the ground dazed, but lucky for it, it soon recovered and could continue its flight but many years ago I had seen one killed outright when it crashed into a chicken wire fence!

Locals sometimes imprison these beautiful birds as pets feeding them rice and chicken feed.

The Malay name for this bird is punai tanah, in Kadazan/Dusun it is limbuken while the Hakkas call it ti kap 地鸽 (simply meaning ground pigeon).

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Donno, there was a car coming? Well forget the fowl joke, this is a post about wild chickens! And that chicken crossing the plantation road is actually a wild Red Jungle Fowl.

Until a few years ago when anyone in Borneo talk about wild fowls, they would most probably be talking about the various species of pheasants, patridges and megapods, not the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) that is so similar to kampung or village chicken. That's because it is supposed to be naturally absent from Borneo, even though it is common from India, Indochina, Thailand, Sumatra, Java, Peninsular Malaysia and in the Philippines. Strangely it's left out of Borneo. (See map in this Wikipedia link

However it is believed that somebody, maybe more than one or two people, imported (it's unclear when or how, eggs, chicks or adult birds?) some into Sabah, probably in Lahad Datu or more precisely the vast Felda oil palm plantations and they have now become firmly established in the East Coast of the state.

I first saw my first Gallus gallus around the year 2000 when a worker in the oil palm plantation where I worked snared a cock that had been "raiding" his ayam kampung hens. Later I met some in the fields and I would not have known that they were wild fowls if they had not flown straight up the palms when they saw me! No decent chickens could fly like that!

A flock of ayam hutan foraging in an oil palm plantation

Now, there are big flocks of them in the fields, mixed flocks of twenty or more males, hens and young chicks are not uncommon. So when you saw a chicken crossing the road, you no longer ask why it crossed the road, instead you ask, " Is that a wild chicken crossing the road?"

Glossary of Borneo-speak: ayam - chicken; hutan - forest, so ayam hutan is forest or wild chicken; kampung - village. Chickens are also called "manok" or "manuk" in many Bornean languages, and by Filipinos as well as Indons.