Strolling Through Magical Matang Mangroves

A  walk in a thriving , healthy mangrove forest is full of splendour, diversity and birdsong.

Produced by: Ashley Yeong, Amar Singh HSS & SL Wong; Edited by: YH Law

Co-published with the Malaysian Bird Report

Published: June 14, 2024

(Boardwalk in the Pusat Eko-Pelajaran Hutan Paya Laut Matang, Kuala Sepetang, Perak  | Video by Ashley Yeong)

Strolling Through Magical

Matang Mangroves

A walk in a thriving, healthy mangrove forest is full of splendour, diversity and birdsong.

Produced by: Ashley Yeong, Amar Singh HSS & SL Wong
Edited by: YH Law

Co-published with the Malaysian Bird Report

Published: June 14, 2024

 

(Boardwalk in the Pusat Eko-Pelajaran Hutan Paya Laut Matang, Kuala Sepetang, Perak  | Video by Ashley Yeong)

A WALK through the marvellous Matang Mangroves brings you through an ecosystem that is more complex than at first glance.

Here, you can see the fascinating transition from the back mangroves to the seaward facing section. So on this walk, you would go from thick, diverse foliage shaded by tall trees, to more uniform plants supported by the famous stilt roots sunk into the muddy shores.

Matang Mangroves are important for birds, and the air is often filled with birdsong. You would hear the laughing calls of the Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris and the whip-crack-whistles of the Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea.

Rarely seen but clearly audible would be the small but loud Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus. And look up! You might spot the ever-present Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus.

Enjoy this guided walk through Matang and learn about some special mangrove birds.

Then, to learn about the ways we could conserve back mangroves, check out Listen to the Birds to Save Mangroves.

TAILORBIRDS

[From top: Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus;  Ashy Tailorbird Orthotomus ruficeps; Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis; Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius (Photos: Amar-Singh HSS)]

[Left to right: Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus;  Ashy Tailorbird Orthotomus ruficeps; Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis; Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius (Photos: Amar-Singh HSS)]

Matang is a great place to easily see and hear all 4 lowland tailorbird species. Rufous-tailed and Ashy Tailorbirds tend to inhabit the interior of the mangrove forest while Dark-necked and Common Tailorbirds use the fringe and open spaces. This is different from thinner coastal mangrove strips elsewhere. There, the predominant tailorbird is the Ashy Tailorbird while the Rufous-tailed Tailorbird cannot be seen at all.

WOODPECKERS

Through a hole in a mangrove tree, 3—4 m above the ground, the Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker can be spotted feeding their young. Both parents bring food and once, were observed feeding them 21 times over 2 hours. The vast majority of the food items were invertebrates or insects including worms, crickets and woodlouse, and appear to have been processed first by the adults.

[This nest of the Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis was located in a dead mangrove tree a few meters off the boardwalk. (Photo: Amar-Singh HSS)]

SUNBIRDS

[Two top photos: Female Copper-throated Sunbird Leptocoma calcostetha building a nest on a thin branch of a mangrove tree; next two photos: this other nest is attached to an Acrostichum fern (Photos: Amar-Singh HSS)]

[First two photos on left: Female Copper-throated Sunbird Leptocoma calcostetha building a nest on a thin branch of a mangrove tree; next two photos: this other nest is attached to an Acrostichum fern (Photos: Amar-Singh HSS)]

Look out for birds’ nests suspended from a thin mangrove branch or frond tip, at 700 cm–3·5 m above ground. They are likely those of the Copper-throated Sunbird. The nests are made out of strips of vegetation, dead leaves and twigs, which are added every 3—5 minutes. Spider web is used to hold sections together, and the nest padded with Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) ‘cotton’.

STORKS

[The Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea is a vulnerable species whose population in Malaysia and globally has declined rapidly (Photos: Amar-Singh HSS)]

The Milky Stork is sadly dying out. As of January 2022, fewer than 5 birds were observed in Pulau Kelumpang and Pulau Trong, the last known Milky Stork habitats in Matang. To breed, the stork needs extensive and undisturbed mangrove, and probably also riverine or dryland forest with tall, outstanding trees behind it. During high tide, they roost in the mangrove trees. Juveniles need shallow pools within the forest in which to forage.

 

This story is produced and co-published with the Malaysian Bird Report. We thank Dr Ahmad Aldrie Amir for his help with the technical mangrove details.

To understand the interdependence of birds and healthy mangroves, read our related long-form feature Listen to the Birds to Save Mangroves.

Allport GA, Wilson S-A. (1984). Results of a census of the milky stork Mycteria cinerea in West Java: report of the Indonesian Waterbird Survey Expedition, July–October 1984. Cambridge, UK: International Council for Bird Preservation (Study Report 14), University of East Anglia.

Amar-Singh HSS (2022). Nesting of the Copper-throated Sunbird Leptocoma calcostetha. Bird Ecology Study Group.

Amar-Singh HSS (2022). Nesting Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers Yungipicus moluccensis: Food Items & Observations.Bird Ecology Study Group.

Giesen, W., Wulffraat, S., Zieren, M.& Scholten, L. (2006). Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia. FAO and Wetlands International, Bangkok.

Ismail A, Rahman F. Current Status of the Milky Stork Re-introduction Programme in Malaysia and Its Challenges. Trop Life Sci Res. 2016 Aug;27(2):13-24.

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