Part 1 of the account on the fig tree at the summit of Bukit Timah lists the 29 species of birds that were documented in and around the vicinity of the Benjamin fig (Ficus benjamina) during its short figging period. The list was compiled by birder Yong Ding Li. In Part 2, our bird specialist R. Subaraj made a detailed analysis of the list as well as adding to the species of birds. In this final part, suggestions are made on what birders can do when the tree bears fig next year.
For the 2007 figging, I would suggest that local birders move on to a higher level of birdwatching. The many old (in terms of experience as well as age) birdwatchers should begin to study the behaviour of these different birds that are attracted to the figging tree. Like when (in terms of time of day and days of the week) these birds visit and whether they all arrive at the same time or at different times? Do these species interact in a friendly manner or aggressively towards one another? Do the different species feast at different areas of the tree (peripheral of the crown, crown interior, branches, etc)? For a specific location of the tree, is there a pecking order of feasting?
In fact there are so many aspects of bird behaviour that can be observed during this short span of less than two weeks the tree will be figging. If different birdwatchers report back on different periods of the day or days of the week, someone can then compile the information. This will help us have a better understanding of bird behaviour when the tree at Bukit Timah produces its next bountiful yield of figs.
Understandably, some of the older and more experienced birders have seen these birds already and may not be interested in spending time at the tree. Never mind. But the newer and younger (and dare I say, more energetic and enthusiastic) birdwatchers should lead the way to the next level of birdwatching in Singapore.
After nearly half a century of birdwatching in Singapore, it is about time we take the challenge to understand the birds that we see everyday, not just keep on listing them.
Input by YC, image of Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) eating insect (top) by Chan Yoke Meng and Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella) (bottom) by Johnny Wee.