Wildlife garden in a high-rise apartment

on 19th July 2007


“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

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

7 Responses

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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!

  5. Pingback: highrise apartment

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