Saturday, 14 February 2015

Borneo's Love Birds - The World's Tiniest Raptor - Black Thighed Falconet #EarthOnLocation

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A pair of 'Love Birds' - the black thighed falconet.


This is the worlds smallest bird of prey, the size of a sparrow. We filmed it for the very first time for the BBC series 'Wonders of The Monsoon'.

The black-thighed falconet is incredibly difficult to find amongst dense rainforest, and so it has been rarely studied.  Fortunately I was able to find a scientist who after many years of work had located a nest, by working with her we were able to get a high vantage point and into a position to film three chicks as the adults brought back food for them. 

The adults are pair bonded, and work together to feed their young. I'd often see them preening each other or taking a minute to 'snuggle' between visits to the nest. A third falconet, presumably an offspring from last year was also helping to feed the chicks. They raid other species nests to steal chicks, sometimes bringing back prey as big as themselves.

What we captured for the first time is how they also specialise in hunting butterflies. South East Asia is one of the richest places in the world for butterflies many of which are toxic, the falconet is believed to be picky about which ones they catch - only selecting the edible and tastiest ones. 

For the first few weeks it’s believed that butterflies are preferred by the chicks as they are softer and easier to eat but eventually they’ll switch to eating other birds and lizards. We saw them bringing back as many as 10 butterflies an hour – sometimes one of the chicks would throw one out of the nest, as if it was protesting against a particular flavour.

One of the conditions of being able to film this elusive species is that we agreed to keep the location, and the name of the scientist secret, for fears that the nest could be targeted by poachers.