The Indian cherry tree (Muntingia calabura) was brought to this part of the world from tropical America in the 19th century. Since then it has become naturalised throughout Southeast Asia. The tree is fast-growing and thrives best in open country. Birds and bats are the two major agents responsible for its spread.
This tree is one of many that attract numerous birds when in fruits. While most other trees flower once or twice per year, the Indian cherry tree is free flowering. What this means is that the tree is in fruits throughout the year. Unfortunately its presence in the more busy urban areas may be frowned upon as hordes of birds that flock to it usually create a mess below with their droppings. However, in Singapore at least, its usefulness in attracting birds back to the urban environment is slowly being recognised again. Still, the tree is not tolerated along many busy roads and definitely not in the city centres.
Recently, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS documented different bird species feasting on these trees from his base in the Malaysian state of Perak.
The common urban Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier analis) is a common visitor (above left), also the Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) (above right). Other species seen eating the berries include Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata hodgsoni) and the Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis strigata).
In earlier posts, the Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (Dicaeum chrysorrheum) LINK, the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (D. trigonostigma) LINK and the Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (D. cruentatum) LINK have been shown to squeeze the soft ripe berries between their mandibles to get at the sweet soft pulp containing hundreds of tiny seeds, discarding the empty fruit shells.