Nesting of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers

on 20th May 2006

Thanks to a lead by Morten Strange, I was able to record the nesting of a pair of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) and the antics of the two nestlings during April this year.

The nest was an oval pouch woven from grass blades, plant fibres and narrow dried leaves. There was a large opening near the upper end. The inner surface was comfortably lined with white plant fibres, probably floss from the fruits of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). The entire structure was firmly attached to a slender outer branch of an Horsfieldia tree whose numerous flower buds were about to burst into blooms. The nest hanged between the two ranks of large leaves that provided shade from the rain and sun.

Peeping out of the large opening were two large nestlings, with darkish heads and prominently large orange beaks. The parent bird was around somewhere, tick-tick-ticking all the time. Whenever I imitated the sound, the two nestlings immediately opened their beaks to expose the reddish inner lining of the buccal area.

I managed to observe only the female bird feeding the nestlings, bringing them green mistletoe fruits that the babies eagerly gobbled. I was told by Morten that the male bird was extremely shy, not wanting to approach the nest whenever there was someone around. This was not so with the female bird, who fed the nestlings at the rate of once every few minutes, even when I was below the tree. And Morten detected a distinct difference in the calls of the two sexes.

The parent birds regularly removed large faecal sacs that were packed with green mistletoe seeds. Apparently such a service was not efficient. When a parent bird removed the sac from one nestling, the other simply turned round, pointed its posterior towards the entrance and started to excrete the mucous-covered seeds one by one.

Checking the ground below, I was surprised to find masses of mistletoe seeds coated with mucilage lying on the ground.

The nestlings had since fledged, leaving the empty nest hanging from the branch between the rows of leaves. However, a few days later the empty nest disappeared.


Text and images by YC.

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

3 Responses

  1. Hi,

    This is fantastic. Only yesterday I noticed that a female SBF has begun building a nest right outside my bedroom window. I’m curious as to how long it takes to build the nest, how long after that she’s likely to lay her eggs and what the incubation period is. I’m leaving Bangkok in 16 days and am hoping to see chicks, but I fear this may not be enough time.

    Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Mary Rose

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