This majestic bird has a white underside, white tail and black on the top of its wings. The Sea Eagle can often be spotted hunting. It observes its potential prey from a branch high above the water. Their diet consists mainly of fish and the occasional snake or a baby heron added to its plate. The call of the bird is loud and is reminiscent of geese or ducks.
Langkawi is home to three different species of the family of Hornbills. On of these is the Great Hornbill, which has a wingspan of up to 1.70 m and a 30 cm long bill. On a jungle track, with the view limited by the thighly covering treetops, one can often hear rather then see these bizarre birds. You may hear the ‘Whoosh-Whoosh-Whoosh’ of their wings beating the air or their husky barking. The lucky ones may hear the clapping of their bills in a marriage ceremony. Spotted more often are the Oriental Pied Hornbills, easily recognised by their fast flapping wings in flight. Wreathed Hornbills are a rather rare species to be spotted in Langkawi.
Hornbills are strictly monogamous. Their nests are built in hollow old trees. The female from the inside seals the entrance of the nest. She leaves a hole only big enough for her head and bill. The male is solely responsible for the food supply until the young hatch. During this phase the male, who can hold up to 100 berries or little fruits in his bill, feeds the female up to ten times a day. Once the young has grown large enough the entrance is opened and the male and the female feed the young together. The young only appears at the entrance when both parents bird arrive making their combined call. Then comes the moments of truth: “Birdy, fly or die!” The nest is approximately 40 m above the ground!!.
Hornbills used to have mystic importance. Their calls was seen as assign of change to come. It was also believed that the black and white tail feathers of the bird gave the bearer courage and power in ritual dance, one of the reason why Iban worriors have the feathers included in their ceremonial dresses. They were often hunted for their bill, the ‘yellow ivory’, was valued higher than real ivory! Today all species of Hornbill are protected in Malaysia. Their size is very important for the distribution of certain tree seeds in the jungle. Some tree seeds need to pass through the digestive tracts of the bird to soften the outer shells, facilitating germination.
- Great Hornbill (Bucera Bicornis)
- Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracocera Albirostris)
- Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros Undulatus)
The Brahminy Kite is usually found near water where it catches its food, which consists of fish, crabs and frogs. This bird is surrounded by myths. It was this bird, which gave the Langkawi Archipelago its name. The Iban and the Dayaks in Borneo see the Brahminy Kite as an ambassador of God because of its flight and behaviour. Plumage is a shiny brown; the underside and head are white.
The nests are made from little sticks and the edges are molded from mud. Grass and cloth are sometimes added to make it more comfortable. Normally two eggs are laid. The female takes care of the hatching and the male feeds her. The young hatch with a beige-gray underside of their wings before changing to deep brown. Both parents feed them.
At the entrance to the Langkawi harbour in Kuah, there is a statue of a Brahminy Kite, which greets visitors. It stands more than 20m high. The Brahminy Kite is a popular emblem of airlines, hotels and other companies, especially on Langkawi.
The Kingfisher is the only one of the most beautiful birds because of its colourful plumage. The following legend of the Kingfisher may illustrate how this bird obtained its precious colouring.
The legend said, noah on the arc sent out a pigeon in the hope of finding land. The pigeon did not return so he sent an unsightly bird with a large beak and grey feathers to look for the pigeon. This bird got into a storm and was struck by lightning, which gave him the blue part of his plumage. Flying on he came too near the sun and burnt the underside of his little body, giving them a brown colour. There ends the story of the creation of the Kingfisher.
Seven varieties of Kingfisher have been identified on Langkawi to date. Some of these can often be seen on the telephone wires beside the rice fields hoping to catch a fish. The picture shows one of the most rare and seldom seen Brown-Winged Kingfisher. The White Throated Kingfisher is often seen sitting on poles near the rice field waiting for frogs or small fish to be devoured as a meal.
These species of birds build their tunnel-like nests at the sandy riverbanks or in holes in trees. 2-7 eggs are hatched. The female who is, in turn brought food by the male, feeds the young. Their food consists of fish, insects, worms, crabs and small mammals.
The slim body of this bird makes it an excellent flyer. It feeds mainly on insects. The birds live in groups of up to ten. Unlike other Bee-eaters this bird has no elongated tail feathers. They are partially migratory. In Langkawi one of their favourite spots are the power lines along the road up to Gunung Raya.
This bird is the most talkative, cheekiest and the loudest of them all. It belongs to the same family as the ‘Hill Myna’. The buffets of the hotels, the parks or the balconies of holiday makers-this naughty bird will not miss. At may fight with others of its kind, be friendly or simply talk and talk which it toes with passion. Watching these birds provides hours of entertainment and one may learn about animal or even human behaviour.
This bird has silky black plumage, with a dark-blue shine and feeds mainly on fruit. Its Malaysian name ‘Tiong’ comes from its unique call. Their nest are often built in three holes. The birds are easily identified by the by the yellow spots behind their eyes. Famous for their ability to learn words or imitate perfectly noises such as telephone ringing or door bells.
The power lines leading up to Gunung Raya seem to be home to this bird. It can easily be recognized by its orange-colored bill and two silver spots, the size of a silver dollar, on the underside of it wings. The plumage shines in the sunlight in a dark green. It represents one of the two species of rollers in Southeast Asia.
Identified by its brown cap and streaked back, always associated human beings and therefore and consequently found near human settlements – village and cities, hotel etc. – feeding on food scraps or insects.
A rather common garden bird, its plumage displays a glossy black and white. Found in all open vegetation and can be identified by its hopping on the ground with the tail raised.
A very popular cage bird due to its melodious song. From head to tail the males are glossy black with rufous belly. Female are more greyish and generally duller. Mostly found in forested habitats – but seldom spotted due to its explicit shyness.
Total number 104, South-East Asia 24 species. This bird is considered the smallest sunbird at all with approximately 8 cm body length. It lives in all habitats from forests to secondary growth. The female is olive above and rather yellow below, while the tips of the tail fathers display a dull white.
Being one of the many kinds of Paradise Birds, this bird is mainly to be seen in the lower forests and plantations. It is recognizable by its split tail feathers, which are long and curved unlike the Lesser Raquet-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus remifer), whose tail feathers are straight. In Langkawi if spotted it is most likely a Greater Raquet-tailed Drongo, since it lives in the lowland and plantation forests.
Lonchura Malacca / Lonchura maya
The Chestnut Munia has a black head, the White- Headed Munia has a white head. Both species are found in small flocks in grass areas, feeding on seed. Displays a rather hectic character in flight.
The Greater Coucal has been described in one of the English field guide books as ‘similar to archepteryx’ – and truly, it behaves as of prehistoric origin. Being very slow, many of the birds become victim of road traffic. It is seldom seen, but often heard. Its spooky call ‘UHUU-UHUU-UUU’ has given him the reputation as a carrier of bad news, similar to the owls. The birds is clumsy on the ground and in flight although it is more a glider then a flyer.
This birds prefers sandy beaches but may also be seen in the mud areas of the mangrove forests, where it is fishing for small fish. The bird depicted was found exhausted on one of the Eastern beaches, but soon recovered in caring hands.
One of the rarest birds, the Masked Finfoot can be seen in mangrove forests at certain times of the year. Very shy, at the slightest sign of danger it pulls back into stilt roots. At first impression the birds appears to be a duck. The Masked Finfoot is easily recognized when swimming by the movement of its head, forward-back-forward-back. Its call is a gurgling sound, as if someone is blowing into a pipe filled with water.
Typical red crown and back, the bird can be spotted in all kinds of wooded habitat and shows a very agitated flying pattern. The pictured bird was ‘reanimated ‘after it hit a glass door at the author’s house- and it made it.
Grey brown all over with a plumage of thin zebra-like stripes and reaching a size of approx. 20 cm. Spotted in open grassland, gardens and along the road. The bird is used in Malaysia as a popular bird in singing competitions.
Identified by the spotted half collar right left and back of the neck, the dove is quite common and easily seen when feeding on the ground. An inhabitant of secondary growth gardens and plantations. With a size of 30cm it is bigger than the Peaceful Dove.
A notable feature of this bird is the metallic green colouring of its wing tops. The upper body, head and neck are a soft ashy gray colour. The call of bird is similar to the sound of a cow. The relatively large pigeons grow up to 25 com lomg with a wingspan of about 42 cm. they live mainly near riverbanks and can be seen in small groups in treetops. Its habitat stretches into the mangrove forests.
The bulbul’s family is extremely rich in species. The pictured bird is found near the rice fields or other streams in secondary vegetation and identified by its yellow streaks on forehead and throat. The Red Eyed Bulbul was found nesting near the authors house in June 2003.
Belonging to the weaver bird family, the baya weaver is distinguished by its golden cap. The birds is usually found in open wood or grasslands and build their interesting nests high up in the trees. Despite the Latin name P. Philippinus, the birds is not a resident of the Philippines. Picture above depicts a typical weaver’s nest found high up in the trees.
Characteristic is the white breast but even more so the very impertinent call ‘keewakwak’ which can keep residents near rice fields at certain times of the year endlessly awake ‘up to 15 minutes at a stretch’ and earned the bird the local name ‘Burung Wakwak’.
Back shining and red eyes distinctive characteristics of this birds. Juvenile are greyish with streaks. Seen mostly in flocks and mainly arboreal, sometimes picking up fruits, that have dropped to the ground.
Total number 34, South East Asia 8 the Black Naped Oriole is native to Malaysia. Like all representatives of the family they have a colourful plumage, live in trees and feed on fruit and insects.
Quails are listed under two families, Turdidae and Phasianidae. All are usually found in grass areas, which make it easy for them to hide. Very shy, they seek for cover with smallest disturbance.
This bird was found near the ricefields at Kedawang and has the characteristic black border around his throat. It feeds sometimes like a wader, while other times catching insects in flight. It is migratory and reaches on its migration northern Australia.
Distinguished from other pittas by its coronal band and short bill. The bird lives in lowland forests, and can be seen also in gardens when migrating.
This bird can be spotted near the rice fields of Kedawang and Temoyong on the western side of Langkawi. The Malaysian Plover is considered near threated with global extinction.
A characteristic of this species is the white spot behind the eye. The birds are found near dry fields and calls, when disturbed with a loud ‘Did he do it ‘of ‘Pity to do it ‘, as they are often living as a resident pair. Aggressively defending their territory when disturbed.
This bird is characterized by a white patch above the beak and black streaks on their plumage. Rests in trees throughout the day in order to feed on fish, mice and frogs.
The heart-shaped face typifies the Barn Owl is. When it flies its almost white, the Malaysian name “Burung Hantu “, Ghost Bird. It was spotted in mangroves while resting in a cavity beneath an overhanging rock.
The similarity of the Osprey to eagles is only superficial, as it is the only one in its family. It feeds exclusively on fish and is perfectly adapted to catching and carrying its slippery prey. Its mighty claws are all the same length. The outer toe can be twisted back – to – front to allow the Osprey a secure grip of its victim, similar to the owl.
The Osprey circles 10-30 m above the water, scanning the surface for fish. After a brief shaking it dives with its wing by its side and its feet pointing into the water. It pins its claws, two from each side, into the fish. The impact is so hard that it almost completely submerges in the water and often only the wing tips still show. The Osprey is, a pleasant sight when flying or sitting on the nest, but appears almost helpless in the water. Taking off its prey is difficult, as it must free its wings from the water. In flight he turns the head of its prey towards the front to balance the drag. This is very important, as the Osprey, weighing only 1.5 kg carries prey of up to 1 kg.
If fish are scarce, it may also catch frogs or sometimes even little birds. There are usually 2 – 4 young. They are fed two to three times a day up to the age of about ten weeks.