“In February last year, a pair of Common Ioras (Aegithina tiphia) was encountered collecting spider silk for nest building LINK. In April this year, chanced upon a female Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) collecting cocoon silk, probably also for nest building.
“The Coral Tree (Erythrina sp.) was a favourite for sunbirds as they like to feed on nectar from the flowers. This Brown-throated Sunbird was seen on a Coral Tree, but it was not hungry for nectar. It was looking for spider silk. It found what it wanted under a low horizontal branch that was probably just slightly more than a metre from the ground. Soon, the sunbird was observed collecting the cocoon silk from the same spot repeatedly. It would disappear from site after collecting some and then re-appearing for more after every few minutes.
“What impressed me was the sunbird’s skill in defying gravity. As the cocoon silk was attached right below the near horizontal branch, it was difficult to reach. The sunbird managed to overcome this problem by using its sharp claws to hook and anchor itself in an upside-down position under the branch. A couple of times, it was gripping precariously onto the rough surface by the side of the branch. Hanging upside-down, it will then used its bill to collect the silk. The sunbird was observed pulling out the sticky material, which caused the silk to be stretched and elongated. Inevitably, the sunbird had to arch itself backwards in a gymnast-like stance to detach the elongated silk. At times, the silk will only detach when the bird departed from its perch.
“The sunbird had another trick used for collecting this nesting material from its difficult position underneath the branch. Hovering like a hummingbird, the sunbird displayed skillful maneuve ring under the branch. It was fully capable of collecting its silk by hovering to the precise spot.”
Kwong Wai Chong
23rd June 2011