“I have been watching birds feed on the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica) in our garden for more than 10 years and recognise that it is an important food source for garden birds. It is also a useful “fruit tree” to attract birds to the garden. The Neem tree has a fruit that is oval, approximately 1×1.5 cm in size and has a skin covering, a thin pulp and a hard seed.
“Birds that feed on the Neem fruit in our garden include:
1. Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier analis)
2. Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)
3. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
4. Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis strigata)
5. Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans)
6. Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata hodgsoni)
7. Common Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea)
“Of these the Yellow-vented Bulbuls are the commonest. It also feeds the fruit to its young. It has been hard to capture this because the Yellow-vented Bulbuls, after plucking the ripe fruit, take it to our roof to ‘process’. They are very friendly birds but not excited for me to take photographs, while they are feeding on the roof, with me nearby with a large black object in hand (camera). I have observed the behaviour often with the naked eye.
“The above composite shows a sequence of feeding (numbered). Was fortunate to already be on the roof (noon day) and this was on the neighbour’s roof taken through lots of foliage, hence occasionally a bit blur:
#1 – After plucking, the Neen fruit is brought to the roof.
#2-4 – The fruit is positioned many times, put on the roof for readjustment (in this occasion
3 times), so that the bird can squeeze the closed end of the fruit.
#5-6 – Finally the ripe pulp and seed are ejected from (squeezed out from) the skin
covering the fruit.
#7-9 – The bulbul then swallows the pulp together with the seed whole.
“At peak fruiting we see large numbers of these empty shells on our roof or patio floor daily.
“All the birds listed above swallow the pulp and seed whole without the skin but most can do it while still in the tree. What puzzles me is that the volume of flesh (pulp) is small compared to the large seed, thus many fruits need to be eaten.
“Of course we have many Neem tree seedlings growing in our neighborhood as the Yellow-vented Bulbuls and others help propagate this tree.”
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
17th October 2009
Note: The neem, also known as margosa tree, has been used in ayurvedic medicine since ancient times. In fact the Indians consider the tree a pharmacy in its own right. Every part of the plant has its use, from treating malaria, sores, boils, wounds, hemorrhoids to expelling intestinal worms and protecting the hair from lice. The twigs are used as a toothbrush and to prevent gum infection. In ancient times libraries in India used the leaves to keep books free from mites and other insects. Hindu devotees in Singapore and ?Malaysia carry a bunch of leaves together with two lemons as they walk across a pile of glowing lumps of coal during the festival of Theemithi.