“My attention was drawn to the excitement of metallic clicking calls of a few Scarlet-Backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) that were darting about in the upper storey of a tree. Their fast movement and the maze of foliage made observation difficult. Unable to determine what caused the excitement of the birds, I did my own clicking by pressing the shutter of my trusty camera.
“Back home, after downloading and reviewing the pictures, I realised that there were eight birds altogether. There were two adult male Scarlet-Backed Flowerpeckers with four juvenile flowerpeckers (as determined from their orange beaks) and two female sunbirds (circled in red and arrowed) (above). The juveniles could have fledged recently and the adult flowerpeckers were possibly coaching them.
“The first few shots that were taken continuously showed one of the adult male flowerpeckers hovering in front of the other male, which was perched on a stem (above left). They were facing each other; probably communicating to each other. From the birds’ behaviour, it would seemed unlikely that they were confrontational. In fact, the next few frames showed that the hovering bird was actually backing away, moving backwards (above right). It ended the hovering by turning to land on another stem that was below two of the juveniles. Shortly after, this male darted out of sight, leaving the other adult with the four juveniles. All this time, the sunbirds were minding their own business; foraging near but not disturbing the flowerpeckers.
“Some questions that begged for answers:
• Where were the female flowerpeckers?
• Why were there two male adults present with the juveniles and not the actual parents?
• Were the juveniles from the same parents or there were two pairs of breeding parents?
• Could this be cooperative breeding? Was one of the males assisting the actual parents?
“Would be good if there are some answers.
“Note: Male Scarlet-Backed Flowerpecker can be distinguished by its striking red patch of plumage that starts from its forehead, continuing towards its back and ending at its rump. Females have only a dash of red at its rump.”
Kwong Wai Chong
28th October 2010