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A birdwatcher lands in just the right spot! JV Noriega writes about the beautiful and unusual birds he has seen and photographed right in his neighborhood of Loyola Grand Villas.

Wild Birds of Loyola Grand Villas
text and photos by JV Noriega

1999 – A Green Place to Live

My wife and I decided to live somewhere away from the heart of the city. We wanted a place where there was less pollution and where the sounds of vehicles from the distant city traffic hum could not be heard.  But of course, the place should not be too far away from work, school,  and shopping centers.  After so much scouting and deciding on practical considerations, we ended up zeroing-in on a small mountainside village called Loyola Grand Villas.. Not many knew about this hillside residential community way then.. so it was scarcely inhabited by the time we ventured to this  area. The terrain was hilly, had lots of trees, and had a great vista of the Marikina valley below, and the Sierra Madre mountains beyond.. A kilometer uphill from the village was Katipunan Ave., La Vista subdivision, the perimeter fences of Ateneo de Manila University, the Balara Filters reservoir and further on, the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The topography and location of the village had the ingredients of a good habitat for wild avian creatures.

Not having the luxury of time to go on birding trips to the many birding destinations around the country due to my hectic work load, I pursued my interest in bird photography within the confines of my village and nearby areas like UP Diliman and some open riverside grasslands in the Marikina area. After years of photographing  birds and building up my personal lifelist of birds, I realized that 60% of of my lifers were taken from my village. I have even encountered and photographed uncommon species that I would have seen and photographed only in deep forests and distant mountain ranges. Since the Sierra Madre mountains are visible and not too far by line of sight from my area, I am guessing that the wild birds in my village are transients that find temporary refuge in this lush hillside by a river. Also, a few clean fresh water streams flowing down from Balara filters and La Vista village flow through my village exiting to the Markina river, providing a water and food source for these birds.

Brush Cuckoo
Spotted Wood-Kingfisher

Plaintive Cuckoo
Brown Hawk-Owl
Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo.
Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo.

Residents of my village never fail to stop and ask what I was taking photos of as I moved around my favorite birding spots within the village. As their curiosity grew, some started taking their kids along and even brought their own binoculars to learn more about our wild birds in the village. So to make things easier to explain and spread the information, I decided to create a Facebook page about the Wild Birds of LGV as a form of reference for common species that residents would often see in their backyards, gardens and open spaces. Click on this link to visit the  Wild Birds of LGV facebook page.

Bird List for Loyola Grand Villas

Some common and uncommon endemic and migratoy species that  I have photographed, spotted and heard in LGV are the following:

  1. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
  2. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
  3. Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
  4. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
  5. Barred Rail Gallirallus torquatus
  6. White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
  7. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
  8. White-eared Brown-Dove Phapitreron leucotis
  9. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
  10. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
  11. Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
  12. Colasisi Loriculus philippensis
  13. Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus pectoralis
  14. Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
  15. Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus
  16. Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo Surniculus velutinus
  17. Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis
  18. Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis
  19. Grass Owl Tyto capensis
  20. Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata
  21. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
  22. Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda
  23. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
  24. White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris
  25. Spotted Wood-Kingfisher  Actenoides lindsayi
  26. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
  27. Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
  28. Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus
  29. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
  30. Pied Triller Lalage nigra
  31. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
  32. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
  33. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
  34. Philippine Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
  35. Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
  36. Golden-bellied Flyeater Gerygone sulphurea
  37. Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
  38. Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris
  39. Bright-capped Cisticola Cisticola exilis
  40. Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina
  41. Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana
  42. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
  43. White-breasted Wood-swallow Artamus leucorynchus
  44. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
  45. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
  46. Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus
  47. Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
  48. Red-keeled Flowerpecker Dicaeum australe
  49. Lowland White-eye Zosterops meyeni
  50. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
  51. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
  52. Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher

2012 – Changes and Developments

Due to diminishing open fields, grasslands and empty lots, the grassbirds have been slowly displaced, moving on to more uninhabited areas outside of the village close to the Marikina River.  However, the smaller forest birds can still be found and heard, as many areas of the village have full-grown trees..

Just recently, the village association has self-declared LGV as a bird sanctuary, and we have designated many open spaces reforestation areas. We have started planting fruit-bearing trees and bamboo within these unutilized open areas, hopefully to provide a food source and shelter for our wild birds in the village.

A few months ago, a night roving security guard found a weakened juvenile Black-crowned night heron by an empty grassy lot, and brought it to the security HQ for safe keeping in a cage, fearing that it could easily be devoured by a python . They contacted me the following morning to identify the bird, since they thought it was some kind of Kingfisher. It was a juvenile BCNH that probably just got separated from its parents, leaving it hungry and weak.. I checked it and it had to injury or broken bones or wings whatsoever, and upon feeding it fresh water, it started becoming hyper active making me decide on releasing it back to the wild as soon as possible.  I had known of a large acacia tree where adult BCNHs roost during daytime, so we released it in the area, hoping that some adults would find him and adopt him.

I immediately check if the young BCNH had any injuries.. broken wings or legs.. none.. wounds, lacerations.. none.. skin decease or falling-off feathers..none.. animal bites.. none.. held it by its legs and checked if it could freely flap its wings.. it did, vigorously!.. so i concluded that it was quite healthy and might have just been tired and hungry when the guard found it motionless las night.. it had to be released back to wild!
Black-Crowned Night Heron being held by a LGV Security Guard. JV says, “I immediately check if the young BCNH had any injuries.. broken wings or legs.. none.. wounds, lacerations.. none.. skin decease or falling-off feathers..none.. animal bites.. none.. held it by its legs and checked if it could freely flap its wings.. it did, vigorously!.. so i concluded that it was quite healthy and might have just been tired and hungry when the guard found it motionless last night.. it had to be released back to wild!”

Ultimately, I dream of having the time and opportunity to visit more birding destinations in the Philippines, and be able to photograph more lifers for my personal list and satisfaction, but I guess that will remain a dream for now. In the meantime my passion for birding and bird photography can still be fulfilled without having to travel far and spend a fortune. I guess I am lucky to be sharing my community with wild birds, and as they provide us people with the inspiration to safeguard our natural surroundings, we too can give them something in return by providing food sources and fresh clean water for their survival. We have had a very successful bird walk in the village headed by Jops and Maia, and there was great response and participation from our residents.. an awareness program that should lead to providing a better symbiotic relationship between man and wild avian creatures.

Red-keeled Flowerpecker
Red-keeled Flowerpecker
Coppersmith Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet


  1. Greg T Martin Jr

    No. 24 in JV’s list: A pair of them peck at our bedroom’s French doors and perch on the ring of our basketball goal. Took a phone photo and sent it to a friend for ID. My wife and I welcome their “Good morning” taps.

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