Wildlife garden in a high-rise apartment

posted in: Conservation, Sunbirds | 8


“This week the Guttensohn’shome at Bukit Batok St 25 received a surprise guest (above). It’s just the kind of “squatter” we’ve been dreaming of. An Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) had chosen my “highrise garden” to build a home. My daughter Tia first noticed the completed nest and I confess I missed it whilst rushing to work in the mornings and returning home late.

“I did observe some strands of dried leaf material dangling from the longer branch of our Powder-puff tree (Calliandra emarginata) earlier, but assumed it was part of the plant or that wind had blown fluff onto the plant. Fortunately, I did not clear it (important lesson here). Perhaps the “puff” provides soft nesting material?


“The sunbird can be seen peeking out of the nest at various times of the day (left bottom). It is simply adorable and a wondrous feeling altogether. We felt it was important not to disturb the sunbird too much, and did not spend any length of time recording its coming and going, which would require us to hang around the corridor. We try to minimise noise going in and out of our house.

“I admit I was rather tempted to ‘help’ with some extra nectar by putting out some ‘honey water’, but after wisely discussing with Andrew Tay, I decided instead to do it the natural way by transferring an extra pot of flowering Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus columnea) from my living room balcony. I know they do love that plant. Of course, it is organic nectar for them as I only do organic gardening. Small wildlife can be sensitive and easily harmed, or even killed by chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

“What I’m extra happy about is that this proves that growing a wildlife garden on the 15th floor of an apartment block, even with very limited space, can attract wildlife and provide a safe home for our winged friends. After advocating “Grow a Wildlife Garden” through a series of Nature Society (Singapore) outreach posters that I had helped to design together with Andrew Tay, Vilma D’Rozario and Angie Ng, this was a reward for me. In fact I had put the very words ‘Invite Birds as Garden Guests: Grow plants which will provide food for feathered friends in your garden, patio, terrace or highrise balcony. Lovely birds like sunbirds, flowerpeckers and bulbuls will soon be paying you a friendly visit.’

“What’s great too is that it’s an excellent learning opportunity and I’ll encourage my daughter Tia (11yrs) and her neighbourhood friends to do very, very, quiet observation and study. Now we look forward to keeping you posted on future fledglings!”

Teresa Teo Guttensohn
17th July 2007

8 Responses

  1. Dominic

    Saw the photos. Real nice. Remember that I used to see some birds building their nests on my dads apartment plants last time. Kinda nostalgic.

  2. John Chan

    Nice pictures! It is a very special experience you’re getting to enjoy everyday!

    I think it would kinda ground a person and remind them about the rest of the world; ie. that it is not just work, family, friends etc. That we are just part of a greater ecology…….

  3. Teresa Teo Guttensohn

    True! Animals big and small really make my day, and a bird’s nest is much more than a nest…it’s a shelter, a home, a living work of art, a labour of love, an “architectural” structure and a place where sweet little ones are born! Cheers to the wonder of nature! 🙂

  4. alice

    lucky you! i live in bt batok east ave 5! sunbirds are frequent visitors to my balcony. attempts to put honey water attracted armies of ants instead. hee!!

  5. Chris Yam

    Wow Teresa

    Something very unusual.. and heart warming isn’t it?! .. with Singapore so city like living.. seeing something so “nature” is so scarce.. really unbelievable!

    My children have not even seen a bird nest..

    Good effort!

  6. highrise apartment

    […] LBJ Freeway property that was planned for high-rise development is now in foreclosure. The articleBird Ecology Study Group Wildlife garden in a high-rise …Bird Ecology Study Group: High-rise apartments might not appear to be birding meccas, but as Teresa […]

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