Saraca and sunbirds

on 30th January 2008

James Heng was at Lower Peirce in late January 2008 when he came across a sarcaca tree, possibly yellow saraca (Saraca thaipingensis), in full bloom:


“There are about five pairs of Purple Throated Sunbirds (Nectariniua sperata) feeding voraciously on the flowers of a tree at Lower Pierce Reservoir (above).

“That flowering saraca tree is a magnet for the birds of the Nectariniidae family. At one point in time this afternoon, there were four species of sunbirds – Olive Backed (Cinnyris jugularis), Brown-throated (Anthreptes malacensis), Crimson (A. siparaja) and Purple Throated, feeding together on the flowers’ nectar at the same time.

“A pair of Scarlet-Backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) also decided to join in the buffet. They plucked off and ate the saraca small green fruits.

“The feeding frenzy rose several notches just before and immediately after each of the intermittent episodes of rain.”


There are a few species of saraca trees planted in Singapore, originating from nearby Malaysia. The image above shows the yellow saraca with its attractive purple young leaves hanging like tassels from the ends of branches. It would take a few days before these leaves stiffen up and turn green. The tree is just beginning to flower. When in full flowering, the large bunches of yellow to orange-red flowers appear in dense clusters from the main branches and trunk. The flowers are faintly fragrant, each with a crimson eye-spot that darkens to blood-red.

The tree attracts many species of birds that visit for the flower nectar and fruits.

James Heng
January 2008
(Image of sunbird by David Tan and of tree by YC Wee)

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

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