Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker feeding on Myrmecodia fruits

on 20th July 2012

“I came across a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) feeding on the fruits of the ant plant, Myrmecordia sp. while I was in Kuching, Malaysia two days ago. One of the most interesting flora there was probably this epiphytic ant plant which can be found in reasonable abundance in the city. The species is likely to be M. tuberosa, which is also found in heath forest of the nearby Bako National Park. In Singapore, the species is already presumed extinct.

“The ant plant has a swollen spiny base with many tunnels that provide a protective nesting site for ants. In return, the wastes left by the ants gave nourishment to the plant.

“I was taking photos of the plant growing on a Yellow Flame (Peltophorum pterocarpum) beside the road when I saw a tiny bird flying to and pecking on the plant. Initially, I thought that it was picking up the ants residing in the plant. But on closer inspection of my photographs back in the hotel, it was holding the plant’s yellow-orange fruit with a red dot at its tip. The red head gave the bird’s identity away as a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker.”

Teo Siyang
11th July 2012

Additional notes: The small white flowers arise from depressions along the stem (left). The fruits are soft and fleshy. Ants and birds help spread the seeds. The seeds grow on the bark of old trees, pushing out a short stalk (hypocotyl) bearing a pair of seed leaves (cotyledons). This stalk swells, becoming the tuber. This tuber stores water, thus enabling the plant to grow in exposed locations.

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.

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