Thursday, March 19, 2009

One of the World's Smallest Raptors

From a distance, it's hard to tell what this bird is.

On my first full day in the Philippines, our group set out early to go back to the Subic Bay area and Hill 394 to try to find some targeted endemic birds. Endemic birds are birds that are found ONLY in a limited geographic area. Thus a Philippine endemic bird species is—you got it—found only in the Philippines.

One such species was perhaps the world's smallest bird of prey: the Philippine falconet. After some nice birding along a trail, we came back out of the forest and located a falconet, perched just where the field guide said it would be, in the top of a dead tree. This Philippine endemic measures just 6.25 inches in length, with a 10 inch wingspan.

My first digiscoped image of the Philippine falconet.

I took a few digiscoped shots, in spite of the limited light. In between scope views, the falconet took off in a buzz after passing insects. They will also eat birds if they can catch them. And as if to prove that size and feistiness do not always come in equal measure, the Philippine falconet has been observed mobbing the Philippine eagle, a bird that is seven times larger.

Enlarged for a better view.

From a distance, with the unaided eye, the falconet looked like a wood swallow perched in the treetop. But a zoomed-in view shows a more shrikelike or raptorlike shape to the head, bill, and body.

Does it look like a fierce raptor now?

It was quite a treat to see this tiny bird. Even though the field guide lists them as being common, I did not see another one during the entire two week trip. Or perhaps I merely overlooked them, but I'd hate to think I was THAT oblivious!

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