Saturday, February 27, 2021

Crested Serpent Eagle

Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela (Latham) 1790
Other Name: Nil
Resident & Migrant
Author: Mr Terence Ang

Status and distribution
Occur south to Johore. Borneo Island occurs in both Sabah and Sarawak.

Subspecies Burmanicus is the only migratory subspecies recorded in P.Malaysia.

All subspecies in Borneo were residents.

The adult is mainly medium-sized and "full-crested" head—facial skin yellow distinctive to serpent eagle group. The crest is black with white marked. Naped and hind necked dark with whitish marking. Throat and cheek greyish, pale range to darker in color. The throat may appear brown in some individuals. 

Underpart brown with a spot where some may appear as elongated white spot: Upperpart, warm brown. Thigh at the time seems unmarked.

The upper part is mainly brown above. When the eagle is perched, look out for the black terminal band and the white subterminal band.

In-flight, underwing covert brown with heavy white spot. Flight feather with a white subterminal band and broad black trailing edge. Soar with U shape, and wing held upwards. The tail usually are seen well with a black terminal band and more overall white subterminal band

Juvenile. Whiter face and crest. Slight dark brown appears scaling on the crest. Upper part brown with white on the tip of the feather. Underpart white with streaking. Throat and breast all white.

Malayensis race is usually darker on the throat and may appear black. Dark variation typically points to these subspecies. The underpart of this subspecies was mainly dark, with usually darkest among all four subspecies.

White spots are also less heavily marked compare to burmanicus. Nevertheless, due to the darker color, it tends to make the white area more pronounced. Thighed usually appear white bar. Upperpart on shoulder spot white.

The juvenile below is mainly dark brown with plumage very near-adult. Leg colors are paler. Underpart more heavily spots to the thigh—shoulder of the bird's spots white. Crest tends to show more white.

Pallidus subspecies are very pale and restricted to north Borneo.

Richmodi breast is more rufous and unbarred with cheek and throat grey.

Juvenile of both Borneo subspecies are poorly document.

Confusion Species
Possible to confuse both the Oriental Honey Buzzards orientalis race and the torquatus race. From Honey-buzzard by Posture and jizz of bird are relatively different, the absence of erect crest and face skin was yellow. 

The underpart of the body with spots is somewhat distinctive to Crested Serpent Eagle. 

In Borneo's mountain area, such as Kinabalu, this species may be confused with the Kinabalu (Mountain) Serpent-Eagle, separated by the smaller, relatively shorter wing. It is also noted that pallidus subspecies are paler birds overall with cheek, throat, grey, and a larger white spot on the abdomen. Take note of the range and altitude. Mountain serpent eagle is restricted to montane.

Geographical Variation
Two subspecies were recorded in P. Malaysia

S.c.malayensis : resident

S.c.burmanicus : Migratory subspecies Both juvenile burmanicus have been confidently identified with two confirmed records, one in Kuala Selangor and another in Johore. Other adults were unconfirmed, and one adult observed suspected to burmanicus was also documented up north. Various records of adults restricted to lowland with no case pointed to Burmanicus subspecies were mention in montane.

In Borneo Island
S.c richmodi: Sarawak

Some texts have suggested that Natuna Serpent-Eagle Spilonis natunensis occur in Borneo; however, there was no evidence to support such claim.

Note: See above for a description

Observation on hunting and territorial display in Merapoh Taman Negara, Perak, Kuala Selangor, and Penang, in the lowland. On limited occasions, hunting was observed in the mountain area. A few successful observation was in the montane Genting Highland and Cameroon Highland. This was only limited to Malaysia, with two hunting occasions in Sabah and a few more on territorial display.

Territorial display
The majority of the time, observation on CSE calling in flight is on territorial display. Each time pair will fly together and calling. Where territorial meet with other groups, more pairs can be observed flying nearby, and all individuals can be observed calling. In one occasion in Merapoh Taman Negara, three pairs were observed, and all three couple was calling. Circling within their territory but never enter and no conflict arises. Observation in Sandakan in one of the projects yield the same result. Meanwhile, in the nesting period, female may be calling on perch, to communicate with the  male which is not territorial display. 

Hunting methodology was noted where CSE practices perching hunting method. As of date, almost 100% of all observations in the hunting process are perching hunting. There was no documentation of where soaring hunting was practiced. The bird mainly perches quietly motionless unless movement from the head. The prey will be detected from the flight, and once noticed, the CSE will fly directly to the quarry. Prey items are mainly reptile consisting of lizards such as garden fence lizard and snake, consisting of both venomous and non-venomous snakes such as Sumantra Spitting Cobra, Monocled Cobra, Bronzeback.

On one occasion, an observation was made on a mangrove where a crab was observed to be a prey item. (see photo attach)

Approaching the prey is mainly done in two types. Where non-venomous snakes and lizards are hunted, the CSE comes directly to the quarry and griping the snake or lizard directly during landing.

However, when approaching venomous snakes, the strategy has been switch differently. The prey is detected on perch. CSR will fly to the prey's side or very near the quarry but never snatch it directly. Once landed on the ground, the CSE will strategize occasionally opening its wing to attract the snake's attention. This will continue till the opportunity to attack the snake's head is available. The bird will directly attack the snake's head, killing it. If the bird is feeding, the snake will be brought to the nearby perch for feeding. For nesting birds, venomous snakes are often brought back with heads almost severed or been severed. 

Although with such great predator strategy, in Naroaji's book, it was noted that the death case of CSE due to snakebite had been documented. On my observation, however, I have yet to have such an encounter. Although some prey was observed to be a more challenging choice and more effort will be required.

It will be great to know from other observers in the country on this observation and share the knowledge available, which will be a great assistant to the habitat management program.

Cover various of habitat but usually wooded area up to 8000 feet asl.

Breeding records have been documented in the mangrove and montane area at approximately 4000 feet asl.

Only one egg and one eaglet was raised on all occasion and never recorded more than once. Observation on nest show medium size. 2 nests observed in mangrove was off covered well with leave and entrance were subjected to one entry. Nevertheless, this was different from the nest sighted in Fraser's Hill, where the medium-sized nest was located on a fork. This nest was relatively open and leaning on top of a bird's nest fern. All perch on lowland were not more than 10-15meter height. Fraser's Hill nest was an exception, with nest sighted at least 40 meters in height.  Females spend more time in the nest and caring for the eaglet while males conduct most hunting. 

There is not much evidence where Crested Serpent Eagle here reuse the nest; however individual sighted nesting over five years rebuilt new nest near the old one and approximately 50m radii from the original nest. This suggests that they may use the old nest described in many texts but will occasionally be built. 

Courtship display has seen birds were presenting stingray as early as in March. Nest with young in May. Fraser's Hill nest was also sighted in May. 

The dependency period of the young was somewhat challenging to document. One nestling was observed near the nest together with an adult six months after fledging. There is no evidence recorded locally where dependency period longer than six months.


Ben F.King & Edwards C.Dickson, 1989, A Field Guide To The Birds of South-East Asia, Collins, Grafton Street, London

Craig Robson, 2017, A Field Guide To The Birds of South-East Asia, Bloomsburry, London

Handbook to Birds of The World, Lynx Edicions, Bercolona, Collins, Grafton Street, London

Smythies B.E Revised by Davison G.W.H, 1999,  The Birds Of Borneo, Natural History Publication, Sabah Malaysia. (ISBN 983-812-028-6)

Susan Myers, 2009, A Field Guide To The Birds of Borneo, Talisman, Singapore

Boonsong Lekagul & Philip D.Round, 1991, A guide to the Birds of Thailand, Saha Karn Bhaet Co., Ltd Bangkok

David R Wells, 1999, Birds of The Thai Malay Peninsula Vol 1, Academic Press, London UK

James A. Eaton, Bas van Balen, Nick W. Brickle & Frank E. Rheindt, 2016,  Birds of the Indonesia Archipelago Greater Sundas and Wallacea, Lynx Edicion, Bercelona

James Fergusan Lee and David A Christie 2001, Raptors of The World, Christopher Helm, Great Britian (ISBN 0-618-12762-3)

Medway & David R Well 1976, The Birds of the Malay Peninsula Volume V: Conclusion and Survey of Every Species, Broadwaterpress, England

One observed feeding on crab

Juvenile of malayensis subspecies. Differ from juvenile Bumranicus white underpart with streak

In flight

Adult taking off

Adult malayensi subspecies with clear barred on thigh

Adult suspected to be Burmanicus subspecies. See the less marked white spot below and unmarked thigh

Subadult malayensis subspecies. Individual observed under 6 month dependency period

Friday, December 18, 2020

Asian Waterbird Census 2021

[ Video Credit: East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network ] 

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is part of the global International Waterbird Census (IWC). This citizen-science programme is supporting conservation and management of wetlands and waterbirds worldwide. 

The recommended dates for the AWC are 2 – 18 January 2021, covering two weeks and three weekends, when we should encourage you to count waterbirds. These dates are for guidance only and counts from from any date in December 2020 or January and February 2021 are very welcome.

Your information helps to promote the designation and management of internationally important sites such as nationally protected areas, Ramsar SitesWestern/Central Asian Site Network for Siberian Cranes and Other WaterbirdsEast Asian – Australasian Flyway Network Sites and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). As well this helps in identifying and protecting new sites of importance for waterbirds. The result of the census and information are also used to promote national waterbird and wetland conservation and international cooperation along the Central Asian Flyway and East Asian – Australasian Flyway. 

Guidance and Reporting

If you have participated in a previous count for a particular site, kindly cover the same site this year and report on it using the latest 2021 count and wetland assessment submission forms. We encourage you to cover as many sites as possible and encourage more participation. Submission of forms to the appropriate coordinator should be done by end February 2021 at the latest.

Important Note on Covid-19 Pandemic:

While participating in AWC, please ensure that you adhere to COVID-19 guidelines provided by national government and state/provincial authorities. The AWC coordinators are requested to inform the participants about the state/province specific restrictions/guidelines to be followed during the census. Participants are requested to maintain a distance of at least 2 meters/six feet from other participants. Each participant must carry their personal sanitizer and wear a face mask to ensure safety of the group. Participants may carry their own birding equipment such as binoculars, cameras and AWC Count and Wetland Assessment forms, so as to reduce contact between people to a minimum.

[Source: Wetlands International website]

For more information about the Asian Waterbird Census 2021 in Malaysia and to obtain the relevant submission and assessment forms, please contact the Malaysian Nature Society's National Coordinator Ng Wai Pak and Yeap Chin Aik at

Friday, March 6, 2020

Awana Biopark Birdwatching Trip Report

This is the first birding trip of the year 2020 organized by Wild Bird Club Malaysia (WBCM). Awana Biopark was chosen as a venue due to its popularity for its sub-montane bird species.

On 23rd February 2020, 7.00am, all the birders gathered at Ratha Baru Restaurant for a quick breakfast. All then proceed to drove to the venue and immediately briefing was done by Mr Tang Tuck Hong, the organizer of this trip, followed by a group photo session. We split into two groups; first group led by our president Mr Andy Lee, head to the pump house road, while the second group led by Mr. Tang head to the trail in the Biopark. I was with the second group.

It was very windy and we are in total difficulty to get a glimpse of any bird at the trail. Yet we could hear the call of trogons (which was the Orange Breasted Trogon) all the way. Our friend Jeremy tried to get off the trail, ventured in the woods and manage to see an Orange Breasted Trogon. We then decided to go out from that spot since we ultimately can't see anything.

Once out from the trail, we spotted Orange Bellied Flowerpecker busy foraging on a mistletoe patch high up on a tree. Nearby, we saw two Black Naped Oriole and some Oriental Magpie Robins flying low around the shrubs. At the road side near the Biopark entrance, we saw a pair of Orange Bellied Leafbird feeding at mistletoes, joined by Black Throated Sunbird.

Then came a small flock of Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrikes foraging for insects on a nearby tree. It was slightly drizzling that moment. We could hear the call of the Great Hornbill as well.

Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrike

Suddenly Mr Andy came and told us that he spotted the Great Hornbill. He managed to record it. Everyone was trying their best to get a glimpse of the hornbill. It was far away plus concealed by another tree. Suddenly a Blyth's Hawk Eagle flew up from a lower terrain, and all the birders' eyes were on it. It glided nearby for few seconds before it vanished.

Blyth’s Hawk Eagle

My group then head towards the pump house road. Quite a number of birds were bagged here. Grey Chinned Minivets were everywhere and they were much closer to us. It was a bird wave, joined by Velvet Fronted Nuthatch, Mountain Bulbul, Fire Tufted Barbet, Verditer Flycatcher and Red Bearded Bee-eater. Some even saw White Bellied Epornis and some flycatchers. An Orange Breasted Trogon flew pass us into the woods as well. Unfortunately we could not trace it further.

Red Bearded Bee-eater
Grey Chinned Minivets

Velvet Fronted Nuthatch

Verditer Flycatcher

We then walked back to spot that we gathered in the morning and had some coffee and bites, provided by Mr. Kok Hen. Mr. Tang called everyone for finalising the bird list. . A total of 45 species spotted today at Awana Biopark.

Wrapping up the Bird List

Group photo session again.

Mr. Eddie giving some information to our birders

After the group photo session, Mr Eddie, who manages the Biopark gave us some interesting info on the wildlife around here and the effort taken for its conservation. 

He is expecting we could provide him some information on the birds we had spotted around the Biopark to aid their conservation activities. We then dispersed around noon, yet some of us went to the Ulu Kali birding spot to have a look what is going on there. Myself, only manage to see the Siberian Thrushes and Black Throated Sunbird. The male Siberian Thrushes are now with much matured plumage compared to my previous visit on January.

Siberian Thrush (male)

We left after few minutes since the place was covered with thick mist. Another joyful birding day with team WBCM. The link for the bird checklist of this trip is as per below:

Picture Credits:
Charith Fernando
Saravanan Palanisamy

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Seremban Birds Expedition 2019 Joint Collaboration with NEST

Seremban new location for birdwatching (Source: Kosmo)

Volunteers for Seremban Birds expedition from Wild Bird Club Malaysia were

1. Andy Lee - team leader 
2. Aun Tiah, group leader
3. Dato Lee, group leader
4. Kok Hen, group leader
5. Mr Hiew
6. Mrs Hiew
7. Alan koh
8. Ricky yeo
9. Yap Sue chew
10. Chen Seow Kean

Friday, March 8, 2019

Chiang Rai Harrier trip

Just a week after the AGM 2019, a group of 9 WBCM members made a trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand from 12th to 19th January 2019. Main purpose of this trip was to visit the site of Harriers’ roosting site.

This Harrier Haven was situated at Chan Chawa, Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai. We spent 2 evenings at this site.

The owner of the site had built 2 hides, one big and one small.  We occupied the whole big hide before sunset, waiting patiently for huge number of various species of Harriers to glide in for the night. When they arrived, the magnificent view was beyond described. The excitement of the birders then may be comparable with the moment of OHB’s appearance in Tanjong Tuan, except that in Tanjong Tuan, everyone was shouting with joy, some may be running about in order to get a better view, but over the Harrier Haven, there was perfect silent. Only noise could be heard were the clicking sound made by the shutters of the cameras.

Chiang Rai indeed was a good place for birdwatching. Besides the Harrier Haven, we had good time doing birdwatching at Tham Luang Caves, Golden Triangle Park, Doi Tung Mae Fa Luang, Doi Mae Salong, Nong Tao, Nam Kham Nature Reserve, Nong Nam Luang, Nong Bong Khai Non-Hunting Area, Lai Puchana Chai, Wat Pa Mak No & vicinity, and of course, around the Hotel where we stayed.

Full Checklists in eBird entered by Tang Tuck Hong for this trip, together with more pictures can be viewed through the links below:-

Text and Photos by Lee Keen Seong

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

WBCM Birding Trip to Perak

This Trip was held from 5th to 6th Jan 2019 in conjunction with Wild Bird Club Malaysia’s Annual General Meeting 2019.

Birdwatching session was from 8.30am to 12pm at Bidor on the 5th and from 6.30am to 11.00am at Malim Nawar on the 6th. We birded around the ex-mining ponds and the surrounding areas outside the Bidor FRIM Research Station. In Malim Nawar, birding activities were carried out at the aquaculture ponds and their surrounding areas near the MBI sand mines. We were blessed with Sunny weather on both days. There was a total of 31 members who joined this birdwatching trip to Perak. WBCM’s Dinner for Members was at a restaurant in Tapah, Perak, well-known for their smoked chicken dish (see picture below).

Ong Kang Woei presented on Population Density of Malaysian Plover at the East Coast of Johor. His presentation brings back memories of WBCM Trip to Southern Peninsular Malaysia State of Johor in 2017 which you can read about HERE.

Tan Gim Cheong, our member from Singapore gave a talk on Raptors. We were quizzed on raptor identification after his talk, which certainly helped to reinforce what we learned from his earlier slides.

59 species of birds were seen in Bidor and 69 species in Malim Nawar. A total of 90 different species of birds were seen/heard throughout the 2 days trip.

Large-tailed Nightjar (Photo Credit: Ang Teck Hin)
Black Baza (Photo Credit: Ang Teck Hin)
Green-billed Malkoha (Photo Credit: Yap Sue Chew)
Yellow-bellied Prinia (Photo Credit: Yap Sue Chew)
Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eater (Photo Credit: Yap Sue Chew)
Bank Swallow (Photo Credit: Ang Teck Hin)
Tufted Duck (Photo Credit: Ang Teck Hin)
BIDOR, FRIM EBIRD checklist is available HERE.

MALIM NAWAR EBIRD checklist is available HERE.

As January falls in the middle of the migratory season, a third of the bird species identified were
migrants. The highlights were a pair of Tufted Duck seen in Malim Nawar.

Text by Low Kok Hen and YL Yeo.

Pictures by Yap Sue Chew, Ang Teck Hin and Tang Tuck Hong.

Friday, August 24, 2018

eBird Malaysia Selected Checklists from Jan to April 2018

WHY enter your sightings in eBird Malaysia? Watch this 3-minute video below to learn more:-

679 species, 5139 Checklists were submitted for Malaysia from 1st Jan to 19th August 2018. Some of the sightings from Jan to April 2018, sourced from eBird Malaysia’s Checklists, are provided below. Credit goes to the respective contributors of the checklists, for notable species such as the Jambu Fruit Dove, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Oriental Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-Legged Crake, Mountain Scops Owl, Black Eagle, Brown Bullfinch and Cook’s Swift. For the full checklists submitted for Malaysia from 1st Jan 2018 onwards as well as for previous years, just click on The Illustrated Checklist of eBird Malaysia. That section of eBird Malaysia has species information together with photos and sounds from the Macauley Library which you can access HERE

Selected eBird Malaysia checklists from May to August 2018, followed by Sept to Nov 2018 will be shared shortly through this website.

Jambu Fruit Dove (Photo Credit: Andy Lee)
29th Jan 2018 submitted by Andy Lee

Listen to the audio recordings of Golden Babbler, Buff-breasted Babbler, Large Niltava from Todd A. Watkins’s checklist.

Cook’s Swift (L) Pectoral Sandpiper (R) (Photo Credit: Ang Teck Hin)

22nd Jan 2018 and 18th Feb 2018 submitted by Ang Teck Hin

Red-Legged Crake (Photo Credit: Khoo Swee Seng)
11th Feb 2018 submitted by Khoo Swee Seng

Black Eagle (Photo Credit: Ng Jia Jie)

10th Feb 2018 submitted by Yeo Yee Ling and Ng Jia Jie

Mountain Scops Owl (Photo Credit: Wilbur Goh)

8th Feb 2018 submitted by Wilbur Goh Soon Kit

Brown Bullfinch (Photo Credit: Alan Koh)

12th March 2018 submitted by Alan Koh

Oriental Plover (Photo Credit: Dake Bakewell)
19th April 2018 submitted by Dave Bakewell

Text by Yeo Yee Ling