Gardening for birds: 3. Trees

on 24th October 2011

Birds are attracted to trees for the nesting materials they provide, for possible nesting sites and most importantly, the food available in the form of flower nectar, fruits and the insect fauna. In a garden of a limited size (see LINK), there are only so many trees that can be planted. So selecting the best species that attract the most number of birds is crucial. We have earlier discussed fig trees as one of the best to attract birds LINK. Here, we have a list of other trees that you can plant, and they are by no means they only trees that can be used.

1. Cherry tree, also known as buah cheri in Malay and Indian or Japanese cherry (Muntingia calabura) is a small sized and fast growing tree. The red, sweetish berries are magnets to birds that include barbets, bulbuls, flowerpeckers, pigeons and starlings LINK.

2. Common mahang (Macaranga bancana, previously M. triloba) is a medium-sized tree of our secondary forest. It is recognised from the three-lobed leaves and presence of ants inhabiting the hollow stems of twigs LINK. The fruits have been reported to be taken by spiderhunters, barbets and even sunbirds LINK.

3. Blue mahang (Macaranga heynei, previously M. javanica) is another smallish tree of our secondary forest. Fast growing, the leaves are simple and narrowly ovate. Observations from nearby Peninsular Malaysia LINK and from Singapore LINK. show sunbirds attracted to the tree for the fruits/seeds.

4. Madras thorn (Pithecellobium dulce) is a mid-sized exotic tree that had long became naturalised in this part of the world. Its use as a bird tree has not been generally recognized LINK. In Singapore it’s planting was discouraged decades ago, ever since an epidemic of caterpillars attacked a number of trees grown in a housing estate.

5. Neem or nim (Azadirachta indica) is a small to medium sized tree with fragrant white flowers. Well known to the Indians, it has been a part of their folk medicine (ayurvedic) since early times. All parts of the tree have their medicinal uses – to treat malaria, chickenpox, ulcers, wounds, hemorrhoids and even leprosy. In fact the plant is a pharmacy in its own right. However, what is not generally known is that the fruits attract hordes of birds, from oriole to pigeons, barbets and koels LINK.

6. Malayan teak (Vitex pubescens), another medium-sized tree, comes from our secondary forest (below left). There is a tendency of these trees to attract kerangga ants that build their nests. And the leaves are often infected with insect galls. This may discourage its planting in gardens but these insects attract insectivorous birds. The fruits are also sought after by birds.

7. Silver back (Rhodamnia cinera) is a mediu-sized native tree of our secondary forest (above centre). The fruits are sought after by birds, bats, squirrels and monkeys.

8. Wild cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners) is also a medium-sized tree from our secondary forest. Popularly grown along the roadsides, the bluish fruits attract many species of birds (above right).

9. Salam (Syzygium polyanthum) is another bird tree LINK. The tree is medium to large, commonly grown along the roadsides. Flowers are in small bunches, whitish and fragrant; and fruits are a favourite with birds like the Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) LINK, among others

10. Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) is a popular fruit tree planted in most gardens, The succulent fruits are a favourite with birds like parrots, leafbirds and spiderhuters LINK as well as hornbills LINK

11. Mango (Mangifera indica) is another popular fruit trees in gardens. The numerous insects that are attracted to the flowers are potential food for birds. The succulent fruits similarly attract birds like the oriole LINK.

YC Wee
October 2011

Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs – A selection for urban plantings. Sun Tree Pub., Singapore. 392pp.
2. Wee, Y.C. (2005). Plants that heal, thrill and kill. SNP Reference, Singapore. 172pp.

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

4 Responses

  1. Prof Wee,
    Thanks for the wonderful and beautiful pics of birds and trees (favourite of mine)and dedication of your members. Suggest you label your pics with the same numbers as your paras – easier connection for readers.
    Got your site from Soo Ann who was my classmate; often talked of your shared pineapple days.

  2. Not too sure whether all these plants can be found in the Philippines. However, there should be some region or other in your country that these plants can adapt to.

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