Anatomy of a nest: Common Tailorbird?

on 18th June 2008

I was trimming my starfruit tree (Averrhoa carambola) to remove the branches that were infringing on to my neighbour’s airspace. When collecting the branches, I was surprised to find a small nest attached to one of the end branches. So the nest was constructed high up the tree.

It was a smallish, oval nest, 14 x 8 cm, had a round opening 4 x 4 cm near the top (left). It was an untidy structure, with fibres sticking out all over the surface, looking like a mass of dried plant matters stuck to the branch.

The nest was firmly attached tied to the branch with masses of fibres. The round opening was lined with a defined rim of twisted fibres forming a distinct rim.

The fibres were carefully removed, identified and counted. Most of the fibres came from banana (Musa) and palms, making a total of 637 pieces, the longest being 31 cm. There were also 4 raffia strands and a single grass inflorescence branch. Loose lalang grass (Imperata cylindrical) floss scattered about the inner lining of the nest. There were also a few pieces of what looked like yellow spider cocoon silk, not specifically used to bind the fibres.

The Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) has always been around the tree, foraging for insects, mostly ants. So the nest was most probably that of the tailorbird. The bird is about 11-13 cm in length and appears to fit the nest.

Also, earlier postings of Common Tailorbirds’ nests appear to be of similar size and shape. However, they were always built inside one to a few leaves stitched together like leaves of simpoh air (Dillenia suffruticosa), ginger plant or garden creeper.

Can it be that this nest is incomplete? And that when completed one or more larger leaves (taken from somewhere else) would be incorporated?

YC Wee
June 2008

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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