Tingfang and her Olive-backed Sunbirds

on 17th May 2006

Tingfang, an undergraduate of the National Technological University, found traces of plant materials around her clothes pegs one day in March 2006.

The very next day when she returned from lectures, she spied a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds (Nectarinia jugularis) around. The pair continued building their nest every morning from about 7am and “.. their sharp yet sweet chirps served as my second alarm clock. After a week, it looks more like a nest… I have seen how the birdies worked their ass… or probably their beaks off to get this up… now I have a worry – will the cleaner clear it away?”

“After completing the nest, the birds flew in and out of the nest. Sometimes they made a lot of noise.. .. (hmm.. wondering what they are doing inside.. HmmMmm.. *roll eyes, drum fingers*).. can’t get too near to the nest else they would fly away… usually I could get slightly nearer during the night though.”

At night there would always be one bird in the nest, which she presumed to be the female. On12th April she found two eggs inside the nest. While the female was incubating the eggs, the male visited and brought food for her. He would always be “hopping around.” Seven days later, she noticed the male “suddenly became very noisy” and both birds started chirping. There in the nest was a “wormy thing hatched out from the egg… an orange wormy like thingy.” It was a blind and naked nestling. The other egg hatched the very next day.

The female bird stayed in the nest for most of the next two days while the male was busy foraging for food. By the third day both birds were busy looking for food to feed the nestlings.

Although blind at birth, the nestlings opened their beaks wide at the slightest noise or vibration, expecting food from the parents. By age five they had their eyes opened. Feathers developed around the ninth day. By day 13 the nestlings had grown too big for the nest and a side opening appeared.

Fifteen days after hatching Tingfang returned to her unit to find the nestlings gone. They must have fledged. But the nest was also gone. Only the peg and traces of nesting materials remained. Thinking that the nest with the nestlings inside must have fallen, she panicked and looked frantically around in the units below.

Naturally Tingfang felt sad and empty inside. Who wouldn’t? She had been keeping an eye on the birds for weeks, peeping at them to see their progress. And now, they were gone.

Our bird specialist R. Subaraj is of the opinion that the nestlings must have been taken, nest and all, by some predator bird, as this was a time when their presence was conspicuous.

Thank you Tingfang for agreeing to share your account and images with us; and to Goh Hanlin for alerting us to her blog.

You can also log in to her blog for a more personal account.

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

2 Responses

  1. I thought it’s really interesting that this is not the first time that I read or hear of birds building nests on clothes lines at hostel rooms.

    I’ve ever had at least 2 friends notice the remnants of birds’ nest at their clothes line in the hostel at NUS.

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