Mainland Penang, 3 March 2014

This was a morning sortie in search of snipes, but I will spare you the ordeal of more confusing snipe photos, and post a few of the other birds I saw.

Greater Painted-snipe_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_5040At least these are easy to identify! A female Greater Painted-snipe – one of many in a small patch of marsh which was still wet. Such places are increasingly scarce in this prolonged drought period we’ve been experiencing, so finding one is like finding a goldmine for marsh-birds and marsh-birders alike!

Greater Painted-snipe_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_5054Painted-snipes are one of the relatively few wader families in which the females are polyandrous, mating with several males, and taking no part in incubating the eggs or rearing the young. They initiate courtship and display, and in consequence, are more brightly coloured than the males. Despite the name, painted-snipes are not true snipes, nor are they closely related.

Greater Painted-snipe_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_5070This looks superficially like a male, but the plain wing coverts and the presence of a few burgundy-coloured feathers on the neck show that it is a subadult female.

Asian Openbill_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_5033The tiny patch of marsh even attracted a couple of Asian Openbills. Even though they are now well-established as a Malaysian bird, I still do a double-take every time I see one!

Manchurian Reed-warbler_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_4897From one recent arrival to another. Actually, Manchurian Reed Warblers have probably been wintering in Peninsular Malaysia for years, but it’s only in this past season that we’ve discovered them.

Manchurian Reed-warbler_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_4904In contrast to November, there was no sign of active wing and tail moult, though this photo suggests that one or two tail and secondary feathers may be missing. It’s difficult to judge the freshness of the tail as the tips were wet and partly matted.

The contrast between the pale fringes and dark centres of the tertials and exposed secondaries is strikingly different from the relatively plain wing of Black-browed.

Manchurian Reed-warbler_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_4946Other differences from Black-browed include:

  • long, heavy-looking bill
  • unmarked yellow lower mandible
  • clearly demarcated dark lores and eyestripe (which contrasts behind the eye with pale lower ear coverts)
  • the short dark lateral crown stripe (on Black-browed, it extends to the rear of the supercilium)
  • pale iris
  • supercilium narrowing over the eye
  • overall bright, warm plumage tones
  • quite bright pink legs


Manchurian Reed-warbler_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_4997

  • the remarkably long tail

Manchurian Reed-warbler_Kg Permatang Nibong_030314_IMG_4954… which is often held cocked at a shallow angle.

Smart birds, and once you get your eye and ear in, quite easily distinguished from Black-browed.



2 thoughts on “Mainland Penang, 3 March 2014

  1. Lovely shots of the MRW. Your photos definitely show the long prinia-like tail that is unique to this species. oriental has a long but blunt tail like a bulbul while the Black-Browed’s tail is shorter.

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