Meeting the Tabon bird

Danjugan Series 1

(Danjugan Island Marine Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately-owned island under barangay Bulata in Cauayan Negros Occidental. It is open to those who pass the application process to experience conservation work for species and habitats. While it has board and lodging facilities, even ice cold beer, it is not a resort.)

Tabon birds dig up the sand and lay their eggs in the hole before covering these again. Thus, all you see is… sand.

“This is a Tabon nest,” Danjugan Island site manager Precious said lightly tapping her feet on a mound of tamped sand and coral debris under our foot inside the limestone forest of Danjugan Island on our way to Typhoon Beach from Moray Lagoon.

I looked down expecting to see a “nest”.

No, you cannot see it. The eggs are underneath the sand.

That’s Precious in the background with Atty. James L. Kho on our way to Typhoon Beach.

“The Tabon birds dig in the sand, lay their eggs, and then cover the hole again,” Precious said in her sing-song Ilonggo accent.

She described the Tabon bird or Philippine scrubfowl (Megapodius cumingii) as a brown chicken-like bird.

Tabon birds look like dark brown chicken with small heads and sturdy legs.

Thus, when I saw two brown chicken-like birds going down the limestone-lined steps on a trail leading down to Typhoon Beach, I knew I was looking at my first sighting of Tabon birds.

They obviously know there’s food in the area, as they went down, pecking and scratching. They look like they are used to seeing humans, just don’t go to near.

It’s hard to catch them in a snapshot as they are in constant motion, scratching and pecking on the ground.

They pecked on as visitors came and went, occasionally freezing and skittering off whenever a guest came too close.

Two others guests approached with their cameras as they noticed me standing still and shooting with my bridge camera.

They’re used to humans. Just don’t go too close.

“It’s called Tabon because of its trait of covering its nest,” Precious explained. Tabon in many a Philippine dialect means cover.

After close to an hour of scratching and pecking, the two birds exited through where they came from and then disappeared.

After having their fill, the birds walked back to the coral-lined steps that go up the limestone forest.
Up they went, and then disappeared.

Tabon is but one of 72 species of birds on the island, which can be accessed through a boat operated by locals tapped by the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Foundation Inc. (PRRFI), the non-government organization that owns the island. The boats wait for the guests at the abandoned Sipalay Mines pier in barangay Bulata.

Among the rarely seen species on the island is the Stork-billed kingfisher, which I got a glimpse of but was not quick enough to take a photo.

The Tabon bird in the thickets.

Being a marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary, PRRFI only allows those who apply and pass scrutiny to spend a day or more on the island.

There are open-air cabanas where groups can stay in dorm-style at the Moray Lagoon, the main entrance to the 43-hectare island. There are also more sturdy and private mudhouses on Typhoon Beach on the western side of the island.

Visit to learn more and apply for a stay.

Danjugan Island is not a resort. It is a learning experience where guests have to apply for accommodation and show their willingness to be one with nature.

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