Birds in our backyard

Pink-necked green pigeon: Usually come in the evening to nip on the red berries of our palm tree, the more colourful one is the male, while the other is the female. Photos: Connie Jee.

An old wives’ tale dictates that birds are meant to be set free to roam the skies, or else, bad karma would befall the captor. In the modern age, studies have shown that confined birds often suffer from temper tantrums and mood swings, which are considered unhealthy symptoms for our feathered friends.

Adapting to life in the concrete jungle

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), life in captivity is often a death sentence for birds. Caged birds may suffer from malnutrition, an improper environment, loneliness, and the stress of confinement.

This is because birds are meant to fly and socialise with their kind in a natural environment. The creature is often observed hovering in the skies or perched on trees when they rest.

During the times we were locked indoors to prevent the spread of Covid-19, my mother-in-law had gotten herself a new hobby: bird watching from the comfort of our own home.

The Asian glossy starling eating on papayas in our garden.

Before this, the only birds I know are the small, brown ones. However, with the advancement of technology nowadays, a zoom lens on the camera can provide us with much more details of the birds around us.

And that was exactly how my mother spent her days during the MCO. Being the observant lady that she is, she would notice details about each bird and share them with the family. Over time, our knowledge and interest of birds grew.

It was different from what I had known all my life. Beautiful birds were actually not far from us, and there were a lot of beautiful and colourful ones living right under our noses. Each species bore different personalities and behaviour. Once in a while, I would be alongside her, just observing.

Now, we are far from being experts of birds, and our mere observation may not be scientifically correct. Nonetheless, below are the names and information I had done about the birds that we have met during the recent lockdown.

The pink-necked green pigeon (Treron vernans)

Pink-necked green pigeon is known to be a fruit dispenser — the reason why a forest is abundance with resources.

My mother noticed that this bird regularly comes in the evening — usually a couple of male and female. The two would sit on the palm tree at our backyard, nipping on the red berries. Sometimes, a school of these pigeons would come and the combined colours is a sight to behold.

A quick search on Google stated that these pigeons are commonly found in Southeast Asia. Predominantly green plumage, the female has a yellowish belly, throat and face. The male, is slightly more eye-catching, with not only a pink neck but also a mixture of orange, green and tinges of yellow.

Apart from the colourful parrots at the zoo, this pink-necked pigeon has the most interesting colour combo I have seen.

Known to be a fruit dispenser, its diet is mainly fruits. This species can adapt well in a different environment, hence its presence can be seen in the cities as long as there are fruit trees.

The Javan myna (Acridotheres javanicus)

Javan myna is mainly black with its wings brownish-black, and has white bases.

A member of the starling family, a flock of Javan myna bird returns daily to feed at the papaya trees in our backyard. According to my mother, it is a common bird which can be easily spotted around Kuching.

Through observation, the species frequently occur in pairs, which are in turn nested within larger groups, especially when food is abundant or ephemeral.

The Javan myna bird is a relative of the Asian glossy starling and the both bird species usually roost together on the tree.

Mainly black with its wings brownish-black, the Javan myna bird has white bases. Like a typical children’s drawing, the bird’s beak and feet are yellow.

While I have never seen the Javan myna in its omnivorous state, a quick search on the bird would show that it eats seeds, nectar, insects and even human wastes.

This clever species is a vigilant bunch as they are constantly on the lookout for danger. When one of them spots a potential danger, it would alarm the group with a high pitch tweet and they would flee immediately.

The Asian glossy starling (Aplonis panayensis)

The Asian glossy starling eating on papayas in our garden.

My mother refers to them as the greedy bunch. The Asian Glossy Starling would come in packs to eat papayas, and at the same time fight amongst each other for the best ones. A website on Google that i referred to says that birds are the noisiest bird species which i can attest to. One afternoon, we observed them as they round the buffet of papayas and it was as aloud as a busy day at the market!

The bird’s natural habitat is the subtropical or tropical moist lowland and mangrove forest. However, as they fly to different locations, they can also be seen inhabiting towns and cities, taking refuge in abandoned buildings or trees.

Asian glossy starling is the noisiest and greediest among the birds lurking around our home.

Both male and female have a metallic dark feather, and the prominent feature of these birds are their bright red eyes. The Asian Glossy Starling has a call like a short whistle when perched, and a ringing or piping call when in flight.

A quick research shows that this species would perform an intricate dance over a tree, flying in symmetrical patterns before landing — which intrigued me. My mother often sees the behaviour and she recalled watching how they would dance before landing on a tree branch as she snaps her photo.