Crows and oil palm fruits: A call for more observations

on 4th September 2011

Photographers and birdwatchers have made many documentations on parrots feeding on the fruits of oil palms (Elaeis guineensis) – Red-breasted Parakeets (Psittacula alexandri) LINK, Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda), Rose-ringed Parakeets (P. krameri) and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) LINK, and the latest, also on Long-tailed Parakeets and other non-parrots LINK.

These parakeets and parrots generally eat the fruits in or around the palms, seldom, if ever, carry the fruits some distance away.

Apparently crows behave differently. Ecologist Prof Richard Corlett of the National University of Singapore’s Department of Biological Sciences, reports seeing Large-billed Crows (Corvus macrorhynchos) twice carrying a ripe oil palm fruit to a tree 25-30 metres away. There, they hold it under one foot and peck off all the flesh, leaving only the seed and surrounding fibres, which they drop to the ground. House Crows (Corvus splendens) are also known to behave the same way in India, according to him. But in Singapore?

Oil palms were grown in Singapore as garden and wayside plants some two decades ago. Since then these palms have been spreading gradually to many parts of the main island. This is despite the large fruits, too large for any surviving bird to swallow.

Richard presumes that one or both species of crow are responsible for the spread of oil palm here, but he would like some more observations. He is also be interested in other fruits that crows eat or carry off.

Can photographers and birdwatchers keep their eyes open to crows eating and transporting oil palm fruits? And other fruits as well?

YC Wee
September 2011

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. Few months ago while birdwatching at lake kenyir in malaysia, a few of us saw a pair of great hornbills hanging around a oil palm tree, presumably eating the fruits. Before we can have a closer look, they took off when they realised they are being watched….

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