Family of tailorbirds

posted in: Nesting | 5

Tsen Thau Ming a.k.s t_tsen documented a family of tailorbirds in July 2008 at the Admiralty Park around Woodlands. He spent about three weeks, stalking the birds almost every morning, making use of a cameo hide and photographing with a long lens and not using flash so as not to unnecessarily stress the birds.


The birds were nesting in the dense simpoh (Dillenia suffruticosa) undergrowth, using a large leaf to stitch together a pouch, inside which they constructed their nest (below left).

During the early nesting period, before the eggs were laid, the female had to look for her own food (*above left). She would leave the nest regularly and return with food to be consumed in the nest. There was no courtship feeding by the male (above right). She would remain in the nest for up to an hour before leaving to look for her next meal. The male would occasionally arrive to inspect the nest and to remove the wastes after the female leaves.


The egg was laid sometime before 24th July when a chick was spotted being fed by both the adults every 15 to 20 minutes. Food included worms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, bees, spiders and once, a piece of leaf.

During the three and a half weeks of observation, only once did both parents come back at the same time with food for the chick. Then a very strange thing happened. After the male had fed the chick the female fed it. Then both hopped onto the perch and locked bills, as if fighting, tumbling to the ground still in a bill tussle. Both birds then flew off in separate directions.

“When I returned on 28th July, the chick had fledged (above right) and was not present in the nest. However, I did see the male returning to the nest vicinity at 0945 hours. The female and fledgling were not seen in the area and I can conclude that they had left the area.”

On 31st July, the female tailorbird and the juvenile were spotted some 50m away from nest site. As Thau Ming recounted: “I was drawn to the area by the chick calling, still the same call as when in the nest. i concluded that it was the same female tailorbird with the juvenile, also a female. The chick was tagging around mummy for food, once in a wihle trying to catch its own.

“I spent 20 minutes with them before I left that area. Their feeding ground is now in the mangrove area of the Admiralty Park. The nesting area is 2 ft from the ground and in the thick of the simpoh ayer forest. Chick tail feathers are still short and rusty cap color not in full color.”

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

R Subaraj has written in “comment” that the above is a nesting study of Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis), both sexes of which are shown in the bottom image. However, the top left image is that of a male Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius). As all images were taken at the same site, Ong Kiem Sian pointed out that there were probably two nesting tailorbirds, Common and Dark-necked. Apologies for the mix up and thanks for the corrections.

5 Responses

  1. Subaraj

    Nice study. Well done and thanks for the efforts toward not stressing the birds.

    From the photos, this is a nesting study of Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis). This species prefers wooded areas. The bottom photo shows the pair at nest and the top right photo is of the male, which shows a full red cap. Both sexes have a yellow vent which is distinctive.

    However, the top left photo is of a Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius). This is a species that prefers gardens and parkland, and I am sure that it would also occur at the same park. The lack of yellow on the vent, traces of black of the sides of the neck, the prominent rufous forecrown and the slightly longer central tail feathers indicate a male of this species (rather than a female Dark-necked, which is in the bottom photo).

  2. t_tsen

    Yes, the pictures are of two separate nesting birds. The one with the worm was taken at the urban park of Admiralty park. The nest, and both other birds belong are of the same family and taken at the forested part of Admiralty park.

    Thanks for the clarification on id, I had thought that it was that of a common tailorbird.

  3. BESG

    The fault lies with the one who put the materials (text and images) together – mainly myself. My apologies to all concerned. YC

  4. john wilton

    […] Ray … John Wilton and Ray Mungo, Through the looking glass Alex Kelly, Norman Skougstad, and …Bird Ecology Study Group Family of tailorbirdsTsen Thau Ming a.k.s t_tsen documented a family of tailorbirds in July 2008 at the … Comment by […]

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