Common Tailorbird: A failed nesting

posted in: Nesting-failed | 5


On 19th March 2007 a male Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) was perching on one of my plants in my garden and calling loudly with his high pitch chiup-chiup-chiup-chiup (left). As he was making this incessant loud calls, he had his head cocked up and his wings partially opened and flapping vigorously. At the same time his long and narrow tail was continuously raised and lowered. Normally shy and moving about all the time, he stayed put on his perch for some minutes. Of course he was showing off to his female.

Towards the end of the month when Chan Yoke Meng was around, he noticed the male bird foraging in my garden. Then the the bird flew in a rather indirect way to my neighbour’s garden across the road. Perching on a plant, he looked around and suddenly flew downwards to a small patch of ginger plants by the driveway.


At once we knew there was a nest among the plants. Peering through the gate, we managed to see a brown nest-like structure sandwiched between two leaves less than a metre from the ground (right). It was a tailorbird’s nest.

It was only a week later that I managed to take a closer look. Yes, the nest was active. Not wanting to disturb the nesting birds, we left the nest alone. Subsequently the birds were not seen around and so on 22nd April, sure that the nesting was completed, my neighbour Sheng Lau, went to take a closer look. Sure enough the nest was empty.

The nest was then collected and examined visually. There appeared nothing inside. Turning it upside down, nothing fell out, not even bits of eggshell. Happy that the nesting was successful, I left the nest overnight and examined it the next morning.

Imagine my surprise when a pair of dried skeletons stared me in the face after I cut the nest open (below). The nesting was a failure. The chicks died some days before they were old enough to fledge. Apparently the parent birds failed to feed them and they starved.


According to Morten Strange, at that advanced stage of development, the parents would normally not abandon the chicks even if the nest was disturbed. And the nest was definitely not disturbed. The most probable reason of the chicks’ death would be that the parent birds came to some tragic end. Morten may have a point there as I do not hear the characteristic high pitch chiup-chiup-chiup around my garden anymore.

I wonder what happened to one or both of the parent birds?

Input by YC and Morten, images by YC.

5 Responses

  1. Sidharth


    We have a pair of tailor birds which have built a nest in my garden , the nest was active as i observed the pair continuously keeping the food supply to the nest , but last night i was a chick which had fallen to the ground , fearing that it will not be able to make it to its nest i tried to put back but then another two chick came out , total i have all the three back into its nest and the parents have feed it but i am afraid they may not survive

  2. Thibaud


    I think I’m having the same experience in my garden at this moment.
    Found 2 chicks on the ground last night. I kept them in a wooden open box and hung it just on top of the plant where the nest used to be.

    It’s now hanging there since a couple of hours, but I don’t see any parents coming to feed them…
    At what point should I decide to feed them myself? Or should nature decide on this?

    Any advice is welcome.
    Best regards,

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