Ampang Forest Reserve

Ampang Forest Reserve (Locally known as Taman Rimba Ampang) is a hidden forest treasure not far from Kuala Lumpur Metropolis, Malaysia. With recent sightings of some hard to find lowland forest bird species (such as Blue-banded Kingfisher, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Black Magpie, etc) as well as its proximity to many city folks, it is hoped that this forest will be better preserved for benefits of its residents in many years to come.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Blue Banded Kinfisher in Ampang Forest Reserve

A handsome Blue-banded Kingfisher photographed recently in Jan 2007

Blue-banded Kingfisher (Male shown on the left with a solid blue band) Photographed in Ampang Forest Reserve, 02 Jan 2006

Blue-banded Kingfisher Alcedo euryzona is a little known kingfisher found along streams in southern Myanmar, southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. This is probably the most sexually dimorphic member of the kingfisher family where the male and female differ in both bill and underpart colour.

Site where Blue-banded Kingfisher was regularly observed in 2008. (Note: This site can be overcrowded with picnickers during weekends) Photo Courtesy of Wong Kim Seng

Female Blue-banded Kingfisher (courtesy of CHEONG Weng Chun)

Based on the references I went through1,2,4, there are two sub-species or races recognized: the nominate euryzona and peninsulae2. The nominate race is found in Java (no recent record) [Some treat the Borneo birds as race euryzona4]. The female of this race also has a blue breast band2! Race peninsulae is said to be found in the rest of the region where the male has a streaked blue band instead of a solid broad blue breast band. Some regard the Sumatra birds as euryzona while others think they are intermediate between the two races1.

Recent development:

With a number of photos available in the web recently as well as my first observation of a male in Ampang Forest Reserve, Selangor, Malaysia on 2 Jan 2006, I would like to raise some doubts on sub-species classification for this kingfisher. Despite being just a hobbyist birdwatcher and bird photographer, I find there are a few interesting points when comparing various photos taken in Thailand and Malaysia by a number of photographers.

Male of race peninsulae is said to have a streaky breast band, which is evident in this photos taken in Thailand, particularly in the see examples in Oriental Bird Images below:-
Photo taken by © Suppalak Klabdee at Kang Kracharn national park, Petchaburi, Thailand
(If the link is broken, go to the homepage of Oriental Bird Images and search for 'Blue-banded Kingfisher')

Or another one taken by © Surachai Rungkunakorn at the same site.
(If the link is broken, go to the homepage of Oriental Bird Images and search for 'Blue-banded Kingfisher')

A photo taken slightly south by © Peter Ericsson at Sri Phang Nga National Park, Thailand also displays very speckled blue band.

However, all photos of males taken in cental Peninsular Malaysia consistently show a solid blue breast band, as shown in this photo taken by © Tee Lian Huat in Taman Negara:

 (If the link is broken, go to the homepage of Oriental Bird Images and search for 'Blue-banded Kingfisher')

Note also the white on throat does not extend to chest despite "stretching" its neck.

Bird found in north Peninsular Malaysia looks somewhat intermediate between Kra Isthmus and Central Malaysia?
Left - Male found in Ulu Paip, Northern Pen. Malaysia. Note it has clean flank washed with rufous (Photo courtesy of David Bakewell)
Left - Clean and extensive white belly, unlike the dark streak on flanks as found in male of Ampang, Central Pen. Malaysia.
(Photo courtesy of David Bakewell)
(Photo courtesy of Tan Choo Eng, Sept 2006)

Not all birds in Malaysia appears to be the same. A male found in Ulu Paip (Kedah state, far north of Peninsular Malaysia, close to Thai border) shows features closer to the birds in Thailand. Note the streaked blue band. Also the white patch on throat extends slightly over the chest.

Right: Note the extensive white throat and streaky blue-band of the bird in North Malaysa (near Thai border) Photo courtesy of Dr. Neoh family.

Left: The central Malaysia bird have the white confined to the chin. The blue "chest" is broader and in neat solid blue, even after making a dive. Note the white patch is confined to the throat.

Some Questions:
Now my question: Is the Malaysian bird seen in Ampang, Taman Negara, Ulu Langat and elsewhere actually a different sub-species rather than peninsulae as claimed in many references? Should it be the nominate race euryzona?

Could the blue band fades from sold blue to streaky blue when the bird becomes older? If this is the case, let's wait abit longer for the popular male kingfisher that lives in the very accessable Ampang forest.

A female taken by Tee in Tekala, Ulu Langat, Selangor even shows some traces of blue breast band according to Tee:
(Note: There has not been any reliable photographic proof of female in Peninsular Malaysia that shows blue band across the breast. It is hence so far should be dismissed as lighting effect as all the females where clear photographs are available, shows no sign of blue breast band, although some shows dark marking only at sides of neck and never extend long enough to be regarded as band.)

Juvenile male - showing pale tip at the bill. Photo courtesy of Wong Kim Seng
It looks like very little is known about this elusive kingfisher and more studies need to be done. With a small family now residing in Ampang Forest Reserve, a site easily accessible to many local birders, I hope more interesting observations will follow. So far, other birders have reported interesting observations such as copulation behavior, a family of 4 birds, a female feeding a young male bigger than itself and a young male with duller lengs, shorter and paler bill. (Left, photo courtesy of WONG Kim Seng)

A very rare glimpse of courship ritual. (Photo courtesy of Susan Wong)

It is amazing to find a threatened and elusive kingfisher thriving at a site so close to Kuala Lumpur metropolis. However, there are some concerns for the kingfisher’s well being lately - many branches along the streams have been trimmed. Together with the rainy monsoon season, this has resulted in the kingfisher becoming scarcer lately, according to my contacts. In the long run, the kingfisher has to share its limited habitat with picnickers, especially during week-ends.
I welcome any agreements/disagreements or further follow-ups on my comments. This enigmatic kingfisher, closely associated with pristine tropical river/stream system, definitely deserves more conservation and attention.

If you have any comments or feedbacks, do not hesitate to write to copsychus at yahoo dot com or tunpin dot ong at gmail dot com.

Best Regards,


Recent photo taken in Jan 2007 - probably the same bird photographed a year ago?

On another note, while taking shots of this bird on 5 Jan 2007 noon, I was interrogated by a passing Police patrol car, the officer asked me if I had seen 3 armed robbers who has fled to the reserve. Hence I was abit worried and had to leave this sought-after target, this is birder's life - Sometimes your target never show up when you have spent so much time and trouble to look for it; Sometimes it just turns up at the wrong (or right?) time. I am sure Mr Policeman would agree with me.


1. Threatened Birds of Asia
2. Handbook of Birds of the World Vol.6
4. John Penhallurick's Bird Data Project

Photo resources:
1. Jan Stuivenberg's
2. Oriental Bird Images [More high quality photos of Blue-banded Kingfisher can be found here].