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Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers and mistletoes

on 12th January 2010

Some years ago, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS introduced the semi-parasitic tropical mistletoe plants onto to his Horseshoe Vitex (Vitex nugundo) tree growing in his Canning Garden home in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. The mistletoes proliferated, flowered and fruited.

The fruits of these mistletoes are a favourite food with the Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum cruentatum), a common attractive urban bird. And these flowerpeckers have since visit his tree regularly. The male bird is colourful (left-top) while the female is, with a mistletoe fruit in her bill, is dull (left-bottom). Note her tongue in the image.

This in turn allows Amar to observe the birds at close range and hopefully, in the near future, “we will slowly tame each other.” The female birds are friendlier than the males but both do not like the camera. “With no optics they will allow 1.5 to 2 meter viewing,” muses Amar.

The flowerpeckers pick the ripe fruits and swallow them whole. The extremely sticky seeds will eventually be ejected from the rear end of the bird to stick on to the branches where these birds perch. In time, the tree will be further infested with these mistletoes. Indeed, mistletoes are excellent bird plants.

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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