Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Indian cherry berries

on 10th May 2010

Kok Tiong a.k.a. koktiong photographed a pair of Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum), each with a ripe berry of the Indian cherry (Muntingia calabura) clamped in its bill. Note that the birds have chosen the fruits that have just turned ripe, the greenness of the skin has just turned yellow. Any further ripening will see the fruits turning bright red. The male flowerpecker has started squeezing the fruit (above left) but not the ?juvenile (above right).

An earlier post shows the male flowerpeker with a slightly ripened fruit in its bill. The female on the other hand has a greener but ripened fruit that she has squeezed to force out the pulp. This is how the flowerpecker handles the fruit, squeezing the pulp into its throat and dumping the empty fruit shell rather than swallowing the fruit whole.

The pulp is packed with small seeds that pass through digestive system system, thereby helping to spread the plant. This is a fast growing medium-sized tree that used to be common around urban Singapore. Not anymore as the masses of birds that congregate in the tree dirty the ground below.

The Indian cherry is an excellent bird tree, guaranteed to attract numerous birds whenever there are fruits. And fruiting is year-round.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

5 Responses

  1. Is the indian cherry identifical to the bo cherry which we born in the 60s played with when we are kids.

  2. We then knew it as buah (fruit in Malay) cherry and as children, relished the ripe fruits. Serabat stalls were set up under its spreading shade, dispensing coffee, tea, ginger water or a mix of ginger water and coffee/tea. This was where the term “teh tarek” (pouring the drink between containers at arm’s length in order to cool the hot beverage) originated.

  3. Now I try to feed juv. flowerpecker with lost wing. Your information gave me a good idea of what I can feed it.
    Hope this one can survive.

  4. Our local flowerpeckers seem to go mostly for this – which I think of as the Jamaican cherry, but have also heard called Singapore cherry! – melastoma and, of course, mistletoes. All three very soft and easy for the world’s smallest frugivores to process. Fruit bats also like Muntingia calabura.

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