Common Tailorbird’s Nest

on 27th January 2013

[Common Tailorbird’s nest]

“Tailorbirds get their name from the way their nests are constructed. Nests are built with leaves that are pierced and stitched together with spider’s web or plant fibre. The leaves are pulled together and stitched to form sort of a cradle where grass or other materials are placed within to construct the actual nest.

[Common Tailorbird]

“It was end 2012, when I stumbled upon a Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) in the act of constructing a nest. Of all places, it had chosen to build its nest in a park around the Civil District area. I first saw this tailorbird collecting twigs. It was cautiously looking around before returning to its half-built nest that was situated almost at the top of a row of shrubs that was just a metre in height and around half a metre from the edge of a paved walkway. To my surprise, in addition to the natural nesting materials, this nest was filled with tissue papers! The loose materials in the nest meant that this was at an early stage of nest building. The bird was observed entering the nest to place nesting materials.

[Common Tailorbird collecting tissue paper for its nest]

“In order not to attract undue attention and unwittingly exposing the nest, I did not stay at the same spot. I loitered around to take in other sights. It was then that I discovered another 2 additional nests that were along the same row of shrubs. Both were less than 10 metres away from the first. Tissues could also be seen in the second nest. [The image above shows the bird collecting tissue paper.] The third nest seemed to be fully completed using normal natural materials, but its internal content were well concealed and cannot be ascertained.

[Common Tailorbird collecting spider’s silk for its nest]

“Observing discreetly from different spots, I can only see one tailorbird, probably a female, judging from a lack of longer central tail feathers. Although this bird was focused on constructing the first nest, it seemed to also visit the second nest. For unknown reasons, its flank feathers were fluffed and displayed before it flew into the crown of a nearby tree. I left for an appointment with the intention to check on the nests the following week. As fate would have it, it rained heavily and I was unable to visit the site until early January 2013.

[Common Tailorbird in its nest]

I had prepared for the worst as there were heavy rain storms with strong winds the last few days before my visit. Alas! It seemed that nature or the adverse weather was not the only threat. There were signs that the shrubs have been trimmed, probably by National Park’s contractor. It was likely the work of Homo sapiens that took away all the hard work of this Common Tailorbird. Sadly, this is another record of failed nesting.

Kwong Wai Chong
15th January 2013

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. Reading Gerald Durrell about tailor-bird nest building, he says ” no-one knows how the thread is made” . Your article says it is plant fibre or spider silk, but how does the bird make this into a thread it can sew with?

    1. “…female selects suitable leaves, pierces a series of holes around perimeter of each leaf, and finally threads strands of fibres through holes, pulling fibres through quite tightly (but ends are unknotted); …”

      Source: Ryan, P. G., 2006. Family Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and allies). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D. A. Christie (eds.). Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 11. Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 378-490.

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