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The Malaysian rainforest is home to 624 species of birds belonging to 78 families, many of which are endowed with extraordinarily beautiful plumage. Of these, only 426 are resident species while the others are migrant birds escaping the harsh winter in the northern hemisphere.
The Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), a legendary bird to the natives of Sarawak.
The Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu).
The hornbill, of which there are 10 species, is often associated with Sarawak albeit there are more species of the bird found in Peninsular Malaysia. Swiftlets, the builders of the world famous edible birds' nests, are also closely associated with Sabah and Sarawak although they are also found in Peninsular Malaysia. In the former two states, the collection of birds' nest is conducted as a commercially viable business activity.
By far, the largest order of birds are the songbirds which are of cultural importance. Traditionally, the Malays rear two species of dovethe zebra or peaceful dove (merbuk) and the spotted-necked dove (tekukur), as cage birds because of their sweet melodious crooning. Of late, songbird contests have become increasingly popular involving these two species of doves as well as the white-rumped shama (murai batu) and the red-whiskered bulbul (merbah telinga merah). Another popular cage bird is the myna. They are good mimickers, especially the hill myna (tiong mas) and the common myna (tiong gembala kerbau), which can even mimic human speech.
The birds of prey are distinctly divided into diurnal and nocturnal birds. The magnificent eagles and hawks of the order Falconiformes are active during the day, while the owls of the order Strigiformes and frogmouths and nightjars of the order Caprimulgiformes sleep by day and hunt by night.
Deep in the rainforest, the pheasants with the 'many eyes on their wings' clear and jealously guard the dancing grounds used for performances to attract a female. Unfortunately, the Javanese green peafowl (merak) species has been hunted to extinction.
Large waterbirds such as this Painted Storks (Ibis leucocephalus) are protected in sanctuaries.
Waterbirds are found along the coast and also near inland bodies of water, whether natural or man-made. They comprise a wide variety of species, both resident and migrant. Among them are the herons, storks, egrets and waterhens as well as ducks and geese. The milky stork, a very rare species, has been successfully bred in captivity at the Malaysian National Zoo.