What happened to the Yellow-vented Bulbul’s nestlings?

on 25th May 2010

“Over the last three days I have been observing the Yellow-vented Bulbul’s (Pycnonotus goiavier) nest and hoping to get more photos of the progress of the baby birds. In order not to overly stress the parents, I spent minimal time at the nest itself. However, I noticed only one head popped up regularly. Even during the first week after they hatched. I had the feeling that something was not right even then.

“This morning I noticed a stench as I approached the nest. I suspected that one of the chicks probably died of starvation or ill treatment by its sibling.

“I retrieved the only chick left in the nest and might have removed the rotting corpse from the nest as well. I returned later to find the dead chick on the ground, but I did remember that something was being held in the legs of the live chick as I took it out.

“My hands were also full of rotting juice.

“Am going to bathe the chick later when the sun is hot with swimming pool water and clean it up.

“What set me thinking was:

1. Do parents remove dead chicks from the nest?
2. Do siblings manage to kick their kin out of the nest.
3. What happened in this case where the winner might have done itself in. The sibling died in the nest, creating a cesspool-like living condition for it to live in.

“I have seen much younger chicks kicked out of the nest. That is a cleaner and clear-cut way of ending the battle. When the chicks are much larger like this one, they are able to lock their claws firmly on the nest even in death resulting in horrible nest conditions like this one.

“Sometimes there is a happier ending, when you see a pair of fledglings huddling together in the tree waiting to be fed and also looking out for and encouraging each other.

“Attached are the two photos I took this morning at the nest. Notice the nest has a dark damp bottom full of rotting juice. I retrieved the only chick left in the nest and might have removed the rotting corpse from the nest as well. It was dead for not more than 2-3 days.

“[Later when the sun was up], I took the remaining chick and cleaned it with swimming pool water. It was living in filthy conditions. However, it had already imprinted on its parents and would not take food from me, despite me putting the much older tame chick [rescued earlier from its nest when crows tried to attack it] beside it and the bigger chick begging for food.

“In the end, I noticed that the parents were still keeping an eye on us and the chick, so I decided to put it back [into the nest]. By noon, the parents have encouraged the chick to leave the nest and it has been moving around the territory. Chick looks in very good spirit and healthy. Letting the parents do their job now.

“I don’t think they will move far. There are other pairs of birds staking out their territory and will attack and not tolerate any intrusion.”

Jeremy Lee
12th May 2010

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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