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Wednesday, 25 July 2012


The Bornean Bristlehead is an endemic species to Borneo with almost iconic status. In the taxonomic classification the bristlehead does not share it's family with any other species; this bird is the only member of the mono-specific family of Pityriaseidae. Add to this the fact that the bristlehead also looks like no other species and it's general scarcity and it becomes a major tick on any birding list. Because they are nomadic a bit of luck is required to find them.

The birds are unmistakable; predominantly black, roughly 25 centimeters in size, with a distinct red and orange head and a strong, long and sturdy black beak. I have seen bristleheads now 3 times in Brunei, always on side roads of Labi road. It's uncommon to rare and classified as near threatened. 
With the advent of more accessible high-end digital photography there are now more photo's of this enigmatic species appearing in the public domain, but until the beginning of this century there were very, very few pictures if any at all.

Below are some of my captures of the last encounter (June 2nd 2012) I had on Labi road. I counted 3 bristleheads together with 4 black magpies feeding up in the canopy. Compared to the magpies, and previous encounters, the bristleheads were very quiet this time and only an occasional croak was uttered.

Male Bornean Bristlehead (Pityriasis gymnocephala)
Looking for food.
Enjoying a praying mantis.

The black magpies that were in the same flock are also an uncommon encounter in Brunei (though definitely not as uncommon as the bristlehead). The magpies seemed to be more shy than the bristleheads -admittedly I was also mainly focusing my attention on the bristleheads- and I only managed one acceptable photo of a magpie, and not a very good one at that.

Bornean Black Magpie (Platysmurus aterrimus)
Folkert, 25/07/2012

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