Natural Mindanao

March 2017

I’ve never seen a Philippine eagle – outside of a book, anyway. I do know that they are glorious, improbable, grey-beaked giants of the eagle clan, very nearly the largest of all. It might be a surprise that until 1995, the national bird of the Philippines was something far humbler.

The chestnut munia or red maya is a finch-like bird unafraid of urban life. It is found throughout south-east Asia, from Burma to Vietnam.

Chestnut munia Philippines

Tree sparrows are also strongly associated with people, and have an even wider range. They are clinging to survival in Britain, where they are far outnumbered by the also declining house sparrow. Tree sparrows have a huge international range however and not likely to disappear altogether.

Tree sparrow Philippines

The Philippines has significant environmental challenges, but there are whale sharks and dugongs (large marine mammals similar to manatees) off the coast, and critically endangered warty pigs roam remote areas.

And, naturally, some of these: golden orb-weavers, quite large but harmless. The tropics would not be the tropics without spiders.

Golden orb weaver Samal Mar 2017

Or without palm trees and sand, I suppose.

Samal Island

Samal Island watches us pass.

Banana seller Samal

Fruit seller Mar 2017

7 thoughts on “Natural Mindanao

  1. Sparrows of the common chickadee-like colouring always put me in mind of a family that lived on a shelf under my neighbour’s window air conditioner … once, one of the chicks fell out of the nest and landed on the ground, and was walking about, peeping, watched by Daddy. There was considerable agitation, since the chick hadn’t learnt to fly, yet. I took the precaution of putting on some heavy gloves and a large, stiff hat, and went out and carefully scooped up the truant to put him back into the nest. On my way, I felt a couple of smart blows on the hat, and was conscious of Daddy zooming about me … I was being dived at, to free the little blighter. When Daffy saw me lift the little guy up to the nest shelf, he ceased his attacks and allowed me to slip the errant child onto the shelf. I was then allowed to retire from the field, with much twittering from the family.

    P.S. The munia makes me think of Darwin’s observation of the change in the beaks of birds in the Galapagos.


    1. What a lovely story! Small birds can be very opinionated and I’m glad they realised that you weren’t a threat.

      The munia does have an interesting beak. I’d have thought it could crack a fair-sized shell – it also somewhat resembles the Eurasian hawfinch, which can crack open cherry stones.


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