Sunbird harvests nectar from Wrightia religiosa

on 14th March 2011

The sui-mei is what the Cantonese call Wrightia religiosa. This small tree of about 2-5 metres tall originates from the Malaysian states of Kedah and Perlis and also from Thailand. The plant has small leaves and small, white flowers that dangle delicately from slender branches. These delightfully fragrant flowers can be seen the year round. Propagated by stem or root cuttings, it is a favourite with bonsai enthusiasts (above right).

Ria Tan, a totally marine person, is just beginning to pay more attention to things terrestrial, like birds for example. Working from her new “office” – a little table in the verandah of her home in the early morning – she becomes aware of the birds and their calls and has a camera besides her to record whatever birds that appear. For the lest few mornings of early March 2011, while obviously working on her website WildSingapore, she has been noticing a little bird (“was it a sunbird?”) that regularly visited the Wrightia religiosa bush, sometimes also known as wild water plum, right in front of “office” (above left). According to Ria, “The bird hops around diligently poking her bill into flowers on almost every branch. So far, she’s been alone when she does this. She leaves once she’s done the bush thoroughly.”

Yes, the bird is a female sunbird.

Ria Tan
March 2011
(Image of sunbird by Ria Tan, that of the bonsai plant by YC Wee)

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. I have pots of Wrightia on my porch, and they do attract sunbirds, even though the flowers are small, and I would believe contain hardly any nectar. But then, sunbirds are also small.

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