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Straw-headed Bulbul eating petals of bauhinia

on 12th August 2010

“I have just been watching two Straw-headed Bulbuls (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) on a tree outside my study pulling pink petals off bauhinia flowers and eating them. I have never seen this before. Is it rare?” queried Richard Hale on 4th August 2010.

The bauhinia is Blake’s bauhinia or Hongkong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana). It is a hybrid, perhaps between B. variegata and B. purpurea. This is a smallish tree, sparsely branched and popularly grown in gardens for its attractive pink flowers. The leaves are deeply notched, looking like the wings of butterflies.

Birds eating flower petals is not uncommon, as seen with: Pink-necked Green Pigeon and simpoh, Long-tailed Parakeet and simpoh, Long-tailed Parakeet and seram palm, Blue-naped Parrot and sea almond and Red-whiskered Bulbul and starfruit.

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

One Response

  1. Hi Richard, this is interesting. I have a different Bauhinia, the Bauhinia purpurea, at the side of the house and often see and hear the Straw-headed Bulbuls singing in it, but I have not seen them eat the flower petals. I will look out for it now, although I do not consistently watch the tree as it is not outside a window where I sit. The flowers of B. purpurea are apparently laxative, by the way. Don’t know if this is true for B. blakeana, and whether it is in any way an explanation of the behaviour of your bulbuls. For the record, I have seen Plaintain Squirrels nibble into the large green seed pods of B. purpurea for the seeds, and Malayan Wood Rats eating the leaves!

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