A nesting tailorbird encounters sunbirds… and a cat

on 23rd July 2009

“I was walking around my backyard taking pictures when all of a sudden a Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis) flew out of a cluster of blue ginger plants. All I saw was a nest and a pair of angry parents…

“The next day everything was normal… until about 4pm when tailorbird cries were heard (below left).

“It was a contingent of four sunbirds, one male and three females. The male and two females were trying to fly away to escape the tailorbird’s wrath, while the fattest female sunbird simply sat on a nearby perch about a metre away simply preening herself (above right).

“The tailorbird, holding a caterpillar in its beak, was all the more angry, flying above, beneath, beside, and all around the sunbird, calling all the way. This female sunbird didn’t bother except to follow the tailorbird’s movement. After awhile… the sunbird went back to preening.

“In sheer desperation, anger and frustration, the tailorbird swallowed the caterpillar and sat on a perch very near to the sunbird… Even for the sunbird, who was 150% the tailorbird’s size and probably twice its weight, this was too close for comfort. It raised both wings in a threatening gesture for about two seconds, then thought better about its size… not very necessary. It went back to preening.

“After ten minutes of abusive birdsong, the sunbird flew off, leaving the tailorbird and its ‘don’t come back’ calls for another five minutes, when the tailorbird quit calling and flew off. Then it flew right back to the same perch and started to preen itself again.

“The next day, the tailorbird nest (above left) was in three pieces: one half on the ground, another half also on the ground (above right), and the entrance-roof was still stuck to the leaf (above middle). I presume the tailorbird chick was calling too loudly and a cat decided to get an easy meal…”

Yi Yang
11th July 2009

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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