Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers and mistletoes

posted in: Feeding-plants | 0

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.

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