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Manila Goes to the Birds

This news article was featured on the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated July 19, 2004, p. D-2 and on the website
Posted:11:48 PM (Manila Time) | Jul. 18, 2004
Inquirer News Service

BIRD-watching in Manila? Of course, says the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.

It is one of the most unlikely things that could happen in pollution-choked Manila, but the club conducts regular and successfully productive sightings around the city.

This unexpected urban surprise spells hope for Manila. It is hard to believe that a few locations in our battered city still support nature.

Some of the sites are abandoned places like the mud flats in the Roxas Boulevard reclamation area, La Mesa watershed, and Nayong Pilipino, which has been closed for months in anticipation of the runway expansion project that will demolish a major part of the property.

Other sites are open spaces: the Arroceros Forest Park, American Cemetery, University of the Philippines-Diliman campus, and Manila Zoo.


What is most surprising is that bird colonies are spotted living in unlikely places like Kamuning in Quezon City.

Club president Mike Lu's report to members on their trip to Nayong Pilipino says it all: "It had been raining earlier in the morning, but it seemed to have cleared up at 5:30 a.m. as Nilo and I headed for Nayong Pilipino. The park looked very green as the grass grew in wild abandon.

"Zebra Doves littered the road going to the lagoon area, that Nilo had to warn me not to drive too fast lest we run over them. The birds were starting the dawn chorus in the midst of a slight drizzle. We could easily distinguish the calls of the kingfishers and fantails. Two black birds perched high up in the Anahaw trees turned out to be Crested Mynahs.

"Nilo and I headed for the lagoon and set up the scope on the bridge. A white-breasted Waterhen flew out from the vegetation below, and everything seemed quiet until we saw a large bird fly behind the trees.

"I crossed the bridge to the island which had mounds to simulate the Chocolate Hills. As I passed under the Ipil-ipil tree, I heard a loud wok and the rustle of leaves above as a Black-Crowned Night Heron fled.

It was followed by more birds from the adjacent trees, until they formed a small flock of 12 birds circling above. I retreated to the bridge as I remembered it might still be the breeding season, and I would not want to scare the birds away from their nests."

Reporting on another sighting at the Manila Zoo, Mike writes: "[After breakfast] Nilo and I decided to drop by the Manila Zoo to check out the Night Heron colony.

"A few years ago, a storm destroyed part of the dome aviary and some of the Rufous and Black-Crowned Night Herons escaped. However, the zoo administration sealed the damaged part, effectively isolating the escapees from the other members of the flock. The birds decided to stay around the zoo and go out to feed in Manila Bay when the sun

"The Rufous Night Herons had bred successfully as can be seen with the number of sub-adult birds. Nilo and I estimated there should be at least 40 birds concentrated in the trees around the aviary and monkey island.

"We also saw Black-Crowned Night Herons nesting. A flowering tree attracted the Yellow-Vented Bulbuls and Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Suddenly we saw a flock of birds that looked liked starlings fly by.

"Seeing some activity on a fire tree in full bloom, we trained our binoculars and were pleasantly surprised to discover a flock of Asian Glossy Starlings pecking at the flowers.

Nilo noticed a good number of juveniles among the flock, as evidenced by the silvery chest with black streaks.

After Intramuros, this is the second site in Metro Manila where we saw starlings this year. Ann had related though, that she suspected there was also a resident flock in the Kamuning area."

Non-birders can download the Metro Manila Bird Gallery on the club website, to see how the birds look. Check out the website of photographer Romy Ocon,, for pictures of other birds found in Metro Manila and in the provinces.

So that the Wild Bird Club can continue its sightings within the city is another reason for stopping the indiscriminate felling of urban trees. Trees are not only the lungs of our city. They are endangered bird habitats.

Interested to sign up? To be acquainted with club activities, it is essential to join one of their monthly guided tours first.

Tours are free of charge, but the club rents out binoculars at P50 each. Join the club and the yearly dues include free use of binoculars, assured space on club trips, and exchange bird info on the lively e-group.

Reach the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines through e-mail or

Bird-watching adds an unexpected, surprising dimension to life in our city.

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