Bulwer’s Pheasant: King of the Birds

ambience: Dyak music of Borneo

On the island of Borneo in the South Pacific, there’s a type of bird that apparently finds its food with the help of pigs. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We’re listening to the music of the Dyak people of Borneo. They’re hunters and their main source of food is the bearded pig. The Dyak have helped John Rowden of the Wildlife Conservation Society learn about a rare rainforest bird, called the Bulwer’s pheasant.

“There seems to be an association between the Bulwer’s pheasants and the bearded pigs, in that the pigs sort of root around in the forest for things like tubers and bulbs, and things like that, and so the Bulwer’s seem to follow along behind them and then they get whatever the pigs don’t eat.”

Now a scientist would call the relationship between the pig and the pheasant a form of symbiosis, since both species benefit from it. According to the Dyak people, the birds show the pigs where they can find a source of food, and while feeding, the pigs dig up grubs that the birds can eat. The Dyak believe that this cooperation is part of a chain of animal communication, which starts with a bird called the buff-vented bulbul, which the local people regard as the king of birds in the rainforest.

“Its job, as king of the birds, is to tell the other birds where the fruiting trees are. So it tells the Bulwer’s pheasant where the fruiting trees are, and then the Bulwer’s sort of leads the pigs to where the fruiting trees are, and then the pigs do their job, sort of digging up the fruit and digging up the grubs. And so the Bulwers benefit from that and so it’s sort of this whole network of animals that are working together. And my question was, why doesn’t the bird, the king of birds, just talk to the pig? Why does the Bulwer’s even need to be involved? And they said, well, that’s a dumb question — they don’t speak the same language.”

If you’d like to hear about our new Pulse of the Planet CD, please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music

Bulwer's Pheasant: King of the Birds

According to the Dyak people of Borneo, the Bulwer's pheasant shows the bearded pigs where they can find food and, in return, the pigs dig up worms and grubs for the Bulwer's to eat.
Air Date:07/25/2008
Scientist:
Transcript:


ambience: Dyak music of Borneo

On the island of Borneo in the South Pacific, there's a type of bird that apparently finds its food with the help of pigs. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We're listening to the music of the Dyak people of Borneo. They're hunters and their main source of food is the bearded pig. The Dyak have helped John Rowden of the Wildlife Conservation Society learn about a rare rainforest bird, called the Bulwer's pheasant.

"There seems to be an association between the Bulwer's pheasants and the bearded pigs, in that the pigs sort of root around in the forest for things like tubers and bulbs, and things like that, and so the Bulwer's seem to follow along behind them and then they get whatever the pigs don't eat."

Now a scientist would call the relationship between the pig and the pheasant a form of symbiosis, since both species benefit from it. According to the Dyak people, the birds show the pigs where they can find a source of food, and while feeding, the pigs dig up grubs that the birds can eat. The Dyak believe that this cooperation is part of a chain of animal communication, which starts with a bird called the buff-vented bulbul, which the local people regard as the king of birds in the rainforest.

"Its job, as king of the birds, is to tell the other birds where the fruiting trees are. So it tells the Bulwer's pheasant where the fruiting trees are, and then the Bulwer's sort of leads the pigs to where the fruiting trees are, and then the pigs do their job, sort of digging up the fruit and digging up the grubs. And so the Bulwers benefit from that and so it's sort of this whole network of animals that are working together. And my question was, why doesn't the bird, the king of birds, just talk to the pig? Why does the Bulwer's even need to be involved? And they said, well, that's a dumb question -- they don't speak the same language."

If you'd like to hear about our new Pulse of the Planet CD, please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music