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Ceylon Frogmouth, the little-known bird - Observer


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Author Topic: Ceylon Frogmouth, the little-known bird - Observer  (Read 691 times)
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2010, 06:41:02 am »

Sri Lankan frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger)

Don’t be mistaken in thinking the frogmouth is, as its name suggests, an amphibian. This animal is
actually a bird found in the dense tropical forests of Sri Lanka and parts of India.

The name frogmouth describes the bird’s wide head and gaping mouth which it uses to catch insects. The females are often a red colour with white freckles, and the males are greyer with even more white freckles.

They are nocturnal, meaning they only come out at night. During the day they sleep perfectly camouflaged upon forest branches, as a result they are notoriously difficult to spot.

Sri Lankan frogmouths build their nests in the forked branches of trees anywhere between two and twelve metres off the ground.

A very unusual characteristic of this bird is that it only lays one egg! The single white egg is incubated by both parents, with the male sitting on the egg during the day and the female at night. Once hatched the chick is looked after by the parents for three weeks before flying the nest.

The main threat to these birds is habitat loss. The forests they live in are being destroyed to make way for tea and crop plantations.

Things you can do?

-Why not ask your parents to buy only sustainably managed tea and help protect the habitat of these birds and other forest dwelling wildlife.
-Try making a home garden and growing some of your own
- This is fun and easy to do and will help to reduce your demand for crops that damage the frogmouth’s vulnerable habitat.
-Try listening out for these birds after dark, if you hear a descending series of “klurck klurck klurck” calls you’ve heard yourself a frogmouth!

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« on: June 11, 2010, 10:58:35 am »

Belonging to the order of Caprimulgiformes and family Podargidae, the Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostmus moniliger Blyth, is related to the Nightjars or "Goatsuckers." It is a scarce breeding resident in all climatic zones in Sri Lanka, with a wide distribution, in small numbers, throughout the forests and well-wooded areas of the lowlands and in the hills to altitudes of 6,000 feet, but seldom seen.

It was formerly believed that the Ceylon Frogmouth or Gembi-Kata Bassa (Sinhala) is a rare resident bird and found nowhere else in the world. However, surveys conducted in the Anaimalai Hills in South India have proved that the same bird (species) as ours is found there.

While at least five species of Frogmouths are found in South-East Asia, Ceylon Frogmouth is the sole representative of the family in the island.

The Frogmouths are characterised by their wide, short, beak, with gape extending to almost behind the eyes as in the frogs, hence the popular English name. Owing to its bizarre appearance and apparent rarity, very few have seen it in the field, since it was first described by Edward Blyth in 1846.

Nocturnal bird

W. E. Wait (1931) described the Ceylon Frogmouth as "A sluggish, strictly nocturnal bird frequenting bamboo jungles or dense forest growth. During the day it lies fast asleep across the branch, with its bill turned upwards."

G. M. Henry (1955), said, "It sleeps on a branch, with beak pointing upwards. In this position its lichen-like plumage suggests a dead snag of the branch. It sleeps soundly and may sometimes almost be seized by hand before it awakes."

Its call is variously described as a rapid croorroo-croorroo (Vincent Legge), a loudly whistled scream wheeeeoooo (male) and wheee-ooo-what (female) Ben King or "resembling the screech of a fishing reel running out fairly slowly" (Henry).

According to Major Phillips (The Annotated Checklist 1978, 2nd Edition) "Main specimens of this bird have been recorded either from the Sinharaja or Bibile, with occasional sightings from a number of places such as Kitulgala, Labugama, Handapanagala, Uda Walawe, Nilgala and Moneragala."

During a survey in the State of Kerala in India, 34 birds are reported to have been sighted during a period of six months (Oriental Bird Club Notes May, 1993).

During the Indian surveys it has been found that the Frogmouths get disturbed from their daytime roosts only when someone stumbled upon them in the undergrowth. When approached too close they would open their mouth wide, revealing the extraordinarily large gape and small grey flap of a tongue - evidently a threat gesture!

The large gape looks ideal for hawking insects in mid-air but, paradoxically, the birds take most of their prey from the ground or from a branch. When a pair is roosting they sit huddled together, invariably facing away from each other. It may be surmised that the birds roost in pairs in the non-breeding season and singly during the nesting period. The young bird either roosts with the parents, perched in between them, or by itself, some distance away. Despite the surveys and field studies carried out in South India and here in Sri Lanka, over the years, very little is on record about the breeding biology of the Ceylon Frogmouth, and its nesting behaviour is still largely matters of conjecture. The following are firsthand observations of its nesting place on record by the Ceylon Bird Club:

Nest found

In Gilimale, in March 1995, a nest of the Ceylon Frogmouth was discovered about 30 feet above the ground and built on a nearly horizontal small branch of a Mahogany tree. The male was sitting (incubating), which appeared to be the second nest on record of the Ceylon Frogmouth, in Sri Lanka. On April 9, the male Frogmouth was still sitting, but in a different posture, more horizontal, and it was assumed the bird was probably on a freshly hatched young, rather than on the egg. The Mahogany tree by then had changed beyond recognition from what it was two weeks ago, being fully covered with heavy green foliage.

"Breeding takes place in February, March and September. The nest, which has been described and photographed by W. W. A. Phillips, is a circular pad of felt composed of the bird's own down, measuring about 2-1/2 inches in diameter and about half an inch deep; it is placed on a horizontal branch, camouflaged on the outside with flakes of lichen and bark. The top is slightly concaved and supports a single egg which is brooded during the day by the male bird; probably the female broods at night. The egg is pure white and measures about 30 x 20.5 mm." (A guide to the Birds of Ceylon p. 162).
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