Straw-headed Bulbul eating petals of bauhinia

posted in: Feeding-plants, Parrots | 1

“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.

  1. Margie Hall

    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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