Mar. 25, 2003, Philippines
A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines
By Robert S. Kennedy, Pedro C. Gonzales, Edward C. Dickinson,
Miranda Jr., Timothy H. Fisher
Oxford University Press, 2000
Where are the spot-billed
Posted: 11:03 PM (Manila Time) | Mar. 24, 2003
By Constantino C. Tejero
Inquirer News Service
didn't know there were pelicans, cormorants, partridges, ibises
and storks in this country -until we saw the book "A Guide
to the Birds of the Philippines" by Robert S. Kennedy, et
the spot-billed pelicans are recorded to have "once occurred
in large numbers in Laguna de Bay and along the shore of Bulacan."
Now those vagrants are "rare, possibly locally extinct - status
great cormorant is also recorded to have occurred along the
coastlines of the entire Luzon, but now it is also "rare."
And so are the ibises and storks.
black-faced spoonbill, once recorded in the tidal areas of
Manila Bay, has not been seen since 1914.
tiny Negros fruit-dove is known only from a single female
specimen (now dried) obtained in 1953 on Mt. Kanlaon, with
no subsequent sightings.
status of the Daurian partridge, introduced in the Fort Bonifacio
area in 1915, is "unknown-probably extirpated."
are just a few of our birds that are now classified as "rare,"
"uncommon," "probably extirpated," "accidental," "expected,"
"no confirmed records," "status uncertain," "possibly extinct."
have all those birds gone? Where have we pushed the limit
What poisons have we laid in their nests?
took foreigners - an American and two Englishmen, with the
collaboration of two Filipinos - to record the extent of havoc
we have brought upon these creatures. As stated on its back
cover, this is the first comprehensive modern guide to the
birds in the Philippines, and, as such, is our definitive
ornithological record for posterity.
book illustrates and describes every bird species in the country,
including many subspecies. It contains 72 color plates especially
painted for this publication, and 500 range maps in color
(for instant distribution).
authors have dedicated it, quite aptly, to Dioscoro Rabor
and wife Lina, "whose pioneering field efforts for more than
half of the 20th century helped shape the field
of ornithology and conservation in the Philippines."
also to aviator and conservationist Charles A. Lindbergh,
"whose belief that the future of humankind depended on a balance
between the natural world and technological progress, prompted
him to respond to Dr. Rabor's conservation plea by visiting
the Philippines to promote programs to save the endangered
Philippine (monkey-eating) eagle and Mindoro dwarf buffalo,
authors note that the archipelago has provided "a special
environment for the processes of evolution." And they marvel
at this "wealth of biological diversity with one of the highest
degrees of endemism in the world": Of the 572 species of birds
known to occur in the Philippines, 172 are found only here.
(And how, in our ignorance, We
take that for granted!)
color plate faces a page of maps where the species occur,
their scientific names, and one-paragraph descriptions of
each. The 146 pages of color plates and range maps on glossy
paper constitute a slim volume by themselves, an art book,
if you will.
the main text, each species account gives more detailed descriptions
of plumage, voice, range, distribution, status, habitat, life
history and behavior. Also, there's a list of islands where
each species has been recorded.
delightful is the previously unpublished information on songs
or call notes. Consider a typical description, this one of
the green-faced parrotfinch, and see if your toes wouldn't
curl: "Contact call a tseet tseet or tsit tsit, and song a
quiet deedeedeedee followed by a chattering day day day, ending
with harsh grey-grey-grey-ray-day-lay-grey."
book's language is inherently poetic, as is often the case
when describing the natural world. Arguably the most poetic
experience one can have of other living things is a sighting
of birds (after flowers and butterflies, some would argue).
amount of work that went into this book is quite admirable,
if not outright monumental.
many instances, it is precise to a fault, as when recording
the voice of the spotted wood-kingfisher thus: "Gives a loud
predawn, ringing whistle ptuuooo lasting 0.8 sec, which often
precedes the main call, an explosive, stuttering trill tu-tu-tu-tu-tu
rising for 1 sec, followed by 5 or 6 descending drawn-out
tuuu tuuu tuu-a tuu-a tuu-a, each note
about 0.4 sec spaced about 0.6 sec apart, with the whole series
taking about 6-9 sec. Alarm call is a raspy chatter."
councilor Patrick Ocampo filed a proposed ordinance seeking
to "prohibit the hunting and trapping of birds, or any acts
of cruelty against all birds found in the city, whether resident
the report: "Ocampo said he filed the bird bill after he was
horrified by the sight of young people, armed with snares
and slingshots, who killed and crippled mayas and other birds
in city parks and other urban greenery pockets. He also said
he had gone to many pet shops in the city and found that mayas
and other small birds were dyed in bright and unnatural colors
to attract buyers.
approved, the ordinance would fine violators a maximum of
500 pesos, jail them for not more than two days, or both if
the court decides."
pesos? Two days?
that ordinance wouldn't be of much use now, because the city
of Manila has a sparse bird population in the first place.
The full extent of the law should be enforced in those areas
where these feathered creatures really thrive.
don't want to see the day when Nature, pushed to the limit,
would get back at us, and bring to fulfillment Daphne du Maurier's
truly terrifying story "The Birds."