Miguel David De Leon photographs rare Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher for 1st time in 130 years

Miguel David De Leon photographs
Dr. Miguel David de Leon captures on camera the rare South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx mindanensis). Photo courtesy of Miguel David De Leon.

The fledgling of the South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx mindanensis) has been photographed for the first time in 130 years by eye surgeon and field biologist, Dr. Miguel David De Leon.

The photograph is the first time anyone is able to see the image of the rare small forest kingfisher found only in Mindanao, since the bird was first sighted in Southern Philippines in 1890 during the Steere Expedition.

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“Discovered during the Steere Expedition to the Philippines and published in 1890, the fledgling of this Vulnerable species has never been described nor photographed until today,” wrote De Leon in his Facebook post on March 11, 2020, with the photo of the three-weeks-old Dwarf Kingfisher.

The director of the Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy, a group De Leon founded in 2017 with eight field workers and bird photographers, documents birds and habitats to contribute data towards conservation of species and ecosystems.

The Filipino field biologist and his team spent 10 years searching in the avian field trying to document the species nesting, feeding, and breeding behaviors. The dwarf kingfishers are known to be cavity nesters and eat a variety of small invertebrate creatures.

In the book a Guide to the Birds of the Philippines written by Robert S. Kennedy, Pedro C. Gonzales, Edward C. Dickinson, Hector Miranda, and Timothy H. Fisher, it was written that South Philippine dwarf kingfisher perches quietly and darts invisibly from perch to perch.

“Even if we’re watching them closely, they just disappear,” Dr. De Leon said in an interview with The New York Times.

Ceyx mindanensis is the tiniest species of forest kingfisher found only in Mindanao in the Philippines. Its unique call is described as “high-pitched, insect-like, and almost inaudible zeeep.”

Its population is continuously declining, threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and climate change.

De Leon hopes that the photographs he had taken will help researchers to learn more about the species.

De Leon also praised his colleagues for faithfully and cheerfully adhering to the strictest guidelines in carrying out avian field research, and shared an excerpt of RSKBC’s Guidelines, “In observing and documenting birds, RSKBC upholds the medical principle of primum non nocere–first, do no harm. . . field work is done with the welfare of the birds as prime import.”

Initiatives to conserve Philippine bird species include sending a breeding pair of Philippine Eagles to Singapore’s conservation bird park, Puerto Princesa City is moving to declare itself as the “Bird Capital of the Philippines”, and the
University of the Philippines setting up the “Siyap”, an outdoor exhibit of wild bird sounds in UP Diliman.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Dr. Miguel David De Leon for sharing the beauty of the Philippines through his rare photograph of the rare Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher!

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