Feeding protocol among some common birds

on 21st December 2005

K.F. Yap’s notes that there seems to be a kind of unwritten ‘pecking order’ among the common birds around us when they feed, see also The ubiquitous Javan Myna. Whenever cleaners remove refuse, Javan Mymas (Acridotheres javanicus) , being most bold and aggressive, would be the first to feed, even when people are around. House Crows (Corvus splendens), although they are larger and more aggressive, usually stay back as they are shy of people. The crows would come to feed after the cleaners have moved away, during which time the mynas would also have moved on.

He also observed that whenever his neighbours threw stale bread and rice out of the backyard windows to feed the birds, the pigeons would come first, then the mynas and finally the crows. The crows would then rob the pigeons and mynas of their food, he concluded.

Intrigued by his account, I hung out a bunch of ripe bananas on a low branch in my garden. Interestingly, Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier) were the first to arrive. They would perch on the bunch and feed on the ripe bananas. Only when the bananas fell to the ground would the Javan Mynas congregating below move in to feed. There would be tussles between rival pairs of mynas fighting to be the first to feed. Invariably every bird had an opportunity to feed. This is because of their method of feeding – making a quick move towards the fruits and taking a chunk to move away to feed. This allows others to move in.

I am surprised that the bulbuls were left in peace up on the banana bunch as on the ground, the mynas would always chase them away. Is this niche feeding? Are mynas ground feeders? Do they find it difficult to feed perching on the bunch?

According to R. Subaraj, mynas are primarily ground feeders though they will feed on fruits in trees where they can perch comfortably adjacent to the fruit itself.

YC Wee with KF Yap & R Subaraj
21st December 2005

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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