Black-backed Forktail used to be the least seen and photographed species of forktail in Thailand until a certain area in Ban Pang Yang, Chiang Mai was discovered to be its regular nesting site several years ago. On April 14, I had a chance to visit this area and take photos of the nesting birds. As soon as I arrived at the place, I could hear the distinctive high pitched call coming from the small stream and immediately spot a pair of them flitting around on the rocks.
A video clip showing one of the parents before going to the nest to feed the chicks. Its distinctive high pitched call can be heard clearly here.
The birds were amazingly tame and would come really close even without a hide, but they would be reluctant to go to the nest and feed the chicks, so using a photography hide was still a must. With a hide, they’d come really close. Sometimes they were even too close for the camera to focus!
A video clip of one of the birds while taking a break from feeding the chicks.
What I also love about this place was that the habitat that they were living in was extremely photogenic. As you can see from the photos, the water surface was completely still and you can almost see a perfect reflection in the water. The challenge was not just getting photos of the birds, but getting photos of them on the beautiful spots. The moss-covered rock with many tiny trees growing on it was my favourite.
It was interesting to see the variety of preys that the parents brought back for the chicks. The nest was located on the bank hidden under some foliage. It was the first time for me to observe the nest of this species. I’ve seen many nests of the larger relative White-crowed Forktail, which are also built in the same manner. There were 3 chicks in the nest and all of them seemed equally healthy. The parents would visit once every few minutes, being more frequent during early morning and less frequent around noon.
Another short clip of the bird while preening and stretching
I also got to observe one interesting habit which I’ve never seen in any other species of forktail before. One of the birds, presumably the male, started to flick the wings in a manner similar to the displaying female Greater Painted Snipe but much faster. It would also give the loud call while flicking the wings as well. It kept doing this for a while before another bird showed up and it seemed to be focusing on the other bird while flicking the wings. After some conversations with other birders, I found that some of them have also seen the bird exhibiting this habit too but none has seen similar thing in other species of forktail neither. I still have no clear idea to what this wing flicking habit could possibly mean.