A feast of flowers: Bulbuls and starfruit

on 26th November 2007


On the evening of 30th October 2007, I was alerted to the call of a Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) that regularly visit my garden. It continuously made a high pitch wit-ti-waet. Normally, they would perch on the fronds of my two tall ceram palms (Rhopaloblaste ceramica). This time the call came from another location. It was from my starfruit tree (Averrhoa carambola ) (above). Trying hard to locate it, I went under the tree and imitated the call until I located its position. The bird returned my call and continued perching where it was, even when it noticed me below, not more than a metre-and-a-half away.

About half an hour later the call was again heard. This time there was at least a pair of the Red-whiskered Bulbuls. Together with this pair were half a dozen or so Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier).

The birds were busy moving rapidly from one branch of the tree to another, pecking at something that I thought were ants. Looking at the birds through a pair of binoculars, I soon found out that they were actually plucking flowers and flower buds off the branches and swallowing them (above: Red-whiskered left, Yellow-vented right).

All this time the Yellow-vented were not making any calls and only the flapping of their wings was heard as they moved around the crown of the tree.

This was the first time I have seen either of the bulbuls in the tree, not to mention seeing them eating the flowers and the buds.

The next afternoon I again heard the call of the Red-whiskered. This time it was alone. Again I imitated its call until I located where it was. It was perching by a bunch of flowers and actively picking and swallowing flower buds. At times it moved along the branch, pecking around its feet, no doubt picking ants. Soon, its call attracted another bird, but I was not able to see whether it was a Yellow-vented or another Red-whiskered.

The Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) can often be seen gleaning insects. And the Tanimbar Corellas (Cacatua goffini) visit the tree when it bears young fruits.

Input 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.

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