Ayam hutan

While we were working in one of the plots this morning, I was startled by the sudden eruption of a pheasant-like bird from a clump of ferns a few metres in front of me. Like a pheasant, the dark bird also had wings that made a whirring noise as it took off and squawked an alarm as it got further away. More surprising was that these squawks gradually turned into clucks. The bird was a female red jungle fowl (or ‘ayam hutan’ – ‘forest chicken’ in Indonesian), the wild progenitor of domestic chicken! Although common in the oil palm plantations, I had never seen one before, as they are wary and easily scared. Further on, another three took off, this time not flying away, but up into the oil palm canopy. Here they hopped along the fronds with surprising grace and ease. If you took your eyes off one, they immediately disappeared among the waving fronds and trunk. No wonder they are hard to find!

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