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82 Bird Species find Sanctuary in UP campus
By Amadis Ma. Guerrero

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Published on page A24
May 8, 2006

***The records of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was mentioned as a reference for the study conducted by prof Ben Vallejo but not all bird species mentioned in this article came from the club records, i.e., Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon ***

My heart in hiding stirred for a bird …
Gerald Manley Hopkins, S.J.

WHILE NOBODY was looking -- except, of course, the bird watchers and the scientists -- the bird population at the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City (and also the nearby Ateneo de Manila University at Loyola Heights) began to increase.

The birds include common as well as relatively uncommon species, near-threatened, endemic (found only in the Philippines), resident as well as migratory.

During the warm months, the birds, whether campus residents or migratory, are active early in the morning and before sunset. During the cool months, the birds migrate from Siberia to Korea, East China, Taiwan and the Philippines. Others go on to Indonesia and Australia.

“The resident birds are here year-round while the migrants start arriving late August,” noted Dr. Benjamin Vallejo Jr., a marine biologist of the UP Institute of Environmental Science & Meteorology. “By September-October marami na sila (there are many of them.)”

More bird sightings

Interest was first sparked by a report of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), which said that bird sightings in the UP campus had increased in recent years.

“The birds like it here because of the diverse habitats -- forest, grassland, watery and muddy areas, and buildings for nesting,” observed Jonathan Villasper, a UP professor and WBCP member.

The WBCP has reported sightings of 82 bird species. However, Alexander Aloy, a research associate of the institute, estimated the number of species observed at 50, with “pa-isa isa na lang ang (minimal) addition.”

White-Breasted Waterhen
White-Breasted Waterhen
Bird species sighted include the orange-tinged Cattle Egret, blue-winged Kingfisher, Barred Rail, White-Breasted Waterhen, Brush Cuckoo, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and the Colasisi.

The UP area where one is likely to see birds is at the College of Science Complex. “There’s a creek and not too many people,” explained Vallejo. The species they have observed include the tree sparrow (maya), yellow-vented bulbul, maria capra (pied-fantail) and, among the migrants, the brown shrike.

Near-threatened is the endemic Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon. “We saw the species only twice,” said the biologist. “We don’t know if they were breeding or passing through. That’s the next stage of our research.”

People lover

Surprisingly, some birds, among them the migrant brown shrike, like places where there are many people.

“I don’t know why, my hypothesis is that this indicates a waste-disposal problem,” speculated Vallejo. Meaning, these birds eat the leftovers from the garbage.

“They are opportunities feeders,” quipped Aloy. The carnivorous birds eat insects and small reptiles like lizards. The yellow-vented bulbuls are quite tolerant of people, but prefer to live in trees. The bato-bato (zebra dove) like grassy areas but they don’t want the grass to be cut often. They want an undisturbed environment. During the wet months, sunbirds love to eat the nectar of flowering plants.

Spotted at the Oblation -- and not in other parts of the UP campus -- are the Crested Mynahs. “They are attracted to feeds,” said Vallejo. “I have noticed some nonacademic staff feeding them but they (the mynahs) don’t like it when there are rallies there!”

Common species are found both at the UP and Ateneo campus. But some species, like the Long-tailed Shrike, are more frequently seen at the Ateneo.
Long-Tailed Shrike
Long-Tailed Shrike

“It must have something to do with land use,” speculated the biologist. “My hypothesis is that the land at the Ateneo is mostly for academic purposes while the UP is a multi-use community. Also, the Ateneo has certain areas where they maintain the natural environment.”

Escaped pets


The Colasisi has been observed at the UP, the Ateneo and other places where there are parks: “They could be escaped pets from the subdivisions. Our friends at the Ateneo have the same observation.”

Then there’s the Ring-neck Parrot, originally from India, which has been spotted here. “Definitely it is an escaped pet bird,” said Vallejo. “In some places, like the American War Cemetery in Taguig City, it’s reproducing. They are nesting there.”

The marine biologist has just completed a study on the bird species, along with his colleagues Dr. Perry Ong, Annette Tamino and Villasper.

“We have to plant more trees,” said Vallejo, the project leader. “The distribution of birds is related to greenery. So if more buildings are put up (at the UP), the greenery should be integral to the architecture of the buildings. And the trees planted should be indigenous. These are more adaptable to the climate, are typhoon-resistant, and attract a lot of birds.”