Monday, February 20, 2012

Red Junglefowl

Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus, the ancestor of our domestic chicken, a common bird of Peninsula Malaysia was non existent in Borneo until recently, a rather odd phenomenon since Borneo has more than ten pheasant and partridge species. 

Some years ago, more than ten to be more precise, (one blogger first saw them here in 2000)  they were introduced from Peninsula Malaysia to some of the east coast plantations, particularly in FELDA settlements in Lahad Datu, no idea though as to how they were brought in, whether in the form of eggs, chicks or adult birds. They have since established remarkably well in some localities. Visiting tourists often encounter group of foraging birds in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu, for example.

They should be a common sight if one has a chance to visit some of those huge expanse of oil palm plantation in FELDA settlements in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

However, this male was photographed in Sepilok, Sandakan, at my relative's house. When inquired, he said this is a wild ayam , apparently wandered to his compound from somewhere nearby, and it would forage around there and to the adjacent oil palm plantation, sometimes it would roost with his stock of domestic chicken. He did try to catch it, knowing that it is different, but he failed and he concluded that this ayam was too smart and alert. 

They are now feral in Borneo, and we do not know whether they are of pure wild breed, (assuming that the belief that they were introduced from Peninsular was correct, then they are G. g. spadiceus)and at the rate they are mixing with the domestic chicken, there is no doubt that even a true wild breed's linage will be at critical risk of being diluted with interbreeding.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Migrant ducks

Borneo has 2 positively confirmed resident ducks, they are Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica and Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arcuata, and 10 migrant ducks.

The only resident duck easily observed in Sabah is Wandering Whistling Duck, which is until quite recently a rare bird. It has established very well in suitable habitats in Sabah. 

All the migrant ducks are rare birds, some species come regularly every year in small number.

The best places in Sabah to observe these northern visitors are in the west coast of Sabah, among the many paddy fields and fresh water lakes which are characteristic of the rural lowland landscape there. Promising places are in Tempasuk plain and Tuaran area.

Southern visitors only reach Kalimantan and have not been observed in Sabah.

Garganey Anas querquedula is the only migrant duck that has been widely recorded all over Borneo, and we managed to locate eleven of them in Tawau in early December 2011, (Historically, Tawau is not a good place to see migrant ducks as no previous observation was made there). 

Some of the pictures below review the wing pattern which is the only reliable clue to sex them in this eclipse plumage.


Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula is a rare visitor, a small number is regularly seen in Tuaran, Tempasuk and Penampang areas in Sabah.They are usually recorded in west coast of Borneo as far south as Kuching. We were lucky to chance upon these two males in Tawau, Sabah, in early December 2011.

Tufted Duck
Happy birding.