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Elusive Bird Sighted Two Hours Away From Manila

It was the first time the bird was documented in the area.
IMAGE Edwin Martinez
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Nature photographer Edwin Martinez was just trekking and heading back to base at Epic Parc in Tanay Rizal when his buddy saw something magenta dart across the forest. Martinez couldn’t believe his luck: It was a rare North Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher.

Photo by Edwin Martinez.

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Previously, Esquire Philippines published an article about the ultra-rare South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher, which lives in Mindanao. Its cousin, the North Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher, is equally captivating and lives in Luzon. 

Epic Parc is a camp situated next to a rainforest reserve in Tanay, Rizal, a two-hour drive from Manila. According to Martinez, he was on his way back to the reception area of the camp when they came across the dwarf kingfisher. 

“I was in the area looking for other birds. This was not on my list and I was not actually looking for it,” said Martinez. “It was on its perch for only five minutes.”

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Photo by Edwin Martinez.

First Time Documented in the Area

According to Martinez, the North Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher or Ceyx melanurus is endemic to the islands of Luzon, Polillo, Alabat, Catanduanes, and possibly Tablas. The most recent records come from Luzon and also Polillo, Catanduanes, and Leyte, but it is the first time it was ever documented in an area so close to Metro Manila. 

Martinez says the sighting could be a good sign the bird's population is growing. "This might be a good indication that the species is flourishing though it's not scientifically proven."

Photo by Edwin Martinez.
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Notoriously Difficult to Observe

Photo by Edwin Martinez.

According to Martinez, the North Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher appears to be generally scarce or rare, but this could be because of its very elusive behavior. 

The bird is listed under “vulnerable” in the IUCN’s conservation status database. In the wild, there are an estimated 10,000 to 19,000 heads surviving today but, because it is secretive and difficult to observe, it may be under-recorded.

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Very little is known about its life cycle and feeding habits. Most existing resources mention no detail about its nesting behavior, diet, and reproduction. BirdLife International says habitat loss caused by illegal logging and typhoons is the leading threat to the survival of the species. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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