“Would like some opinion on this odd, but not uncommon, ‘feeding behaviour’ of the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus). Initially I thought it was an uncommon activity but having captured it on camera a number of times, I am inclined to believe that it may be a common activity. The problem with observing it is that it occurs rather high up in tall trees.
“I was in the Ulu Kinta Forest Reserve in Perak at some secondary jungle at the edge of primary forest when I spotted a pair of Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots high up on a dead tree (no leaves, only moss on bark) ‘feeding’. As I had noticed this behaviour before I approached as close as they would allow. They would bite hard into the moss covering the tree and eventually work their way past the bark (above). True to form, much of the activity was upside down unless the branch was horizontal.
“Some spots were given more serious attention with lots of ‘digging’ with their strong beaks for up to 5 minutes. Much of the stuff dug was thrown away.
“I came as close as possible and since they tolerated me I sat near the fruit of the tree … Overall the male spent 20 minutes doing this, the female left earlier.
“An earlier sighting of the same activity at the Burmese Pool Trail (Secondary forest), Taiping, Perak on 30th December 2009 is shown on the left. Saw a female high on a horizontal branch of a live durian tree (Durio zibethinus) heavily mossed, also biting hard into the moss and bark.
“I have considered the following feeding possibilities: (1) looking for insects buried deep; (2) trying to reach the tree sap, but this tree was dead, and earlier tree was alive; (3) some medicinal value, some animal eat vegetable matter for medicinal value and birds may also know how to do the same, eg. neem fruit (Azadirachta indica); and (4) collecting material for nesting – but much was thrown away and did not see them fly away with any. Any suggestions?”
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
30th January 2010
Note: According to Collar (1997), pygmy-parrots (Micropsitta spp.) glean trunks and branches of trees principally for lichens, “…shuffling along the tops of limbs and frequently bobbing the head around the side of a branch, picking up small objects from the bark surface or flaking off pieces of bark and consuming the items thus exposed.” Forshaw (1973) similarly reports pygmy-parrot feeding on lichens and fungus. So the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot may well be foraging for lichens and/or fungus.
1. Collar, N. J. 1997. Family Columbidae Psittacidae (parrots). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 280-477.
2. Forshaw, J. M. (1973). Parrots of the world. N.J.: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.