Common Tailorbird: 1. Nest building

on 8th March 2013

“I recently posted a Common Tailorbird nesting episode from our garden LINK. Our resident pair’s juveniles had fledged on 13th June 2012. By early July we saw the adults again ‘carefree’ in our garden and one of the new brood independently feeding.

Day 1
“I happened to take leave on 4th July 2012 and in the afternoon was watching the adult female Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius maculicollis) foraging in the garden, when her behaviour changed. She seemed to be searching rather than foraging. I was behind the large tinted glass doors, hence was not spotted by the bird. I grabbed my camera and was able to observe the initial nest building activities. The adult male was not nearby.

“She had chosen a Colocasia esculenta plant with smaller leaves (smaller due to location and shade). She then proceeded to grip one end of the leaf with both feet to pull it down. She leaned inwards and gripped the other edge of the leaf and pulled them together (above, she looked in my direct as must have heard my camera clicks). She then stuck her head inside to pierce the leaf with her beak followed by filling it with some spider silk (see Post 2 composite). She must have pierced each leaf individually before filling them together. And would have to be having the silk held in the beak. Two more holes were done and she called it a day as it began to rain.

“Many images were taken but the majority from behind the tinted glass door, so as not to disturb. Hence image quality and view access limited by foliage. No time to set up for a video.

“First thing the next morning I quickly documented the nest from two sides, for the work done on Day 1 (above). The nest is 0.3 meters above the ground. The nest is again atypical in being built horizontally.

Day 2-4
“Nest stitching was completed by day 2 (below) and then work began on an increased pace with both adults bringing nesting material. Adults would work in spurts, at times coming one after the other very frequently and then with gaps of 1-2 hours; possibly foraging (tea) breaks.

“As the nest was built horizontally we had a unique view from the side into the nest. …nesting material quantity increase on day 3 and day 4 (below left).

“The adults spend between 15 seconds to 2-3 minutes in the nest. The longer durations are to pack the material further in as well a press it down. The birds tolerated us but were not so happy when we were with the camera. So I decide the leave the camera on a tripod 2.5 meters away and take a few video recordings. [The image above-right] shows the adult in the nest (video grab).

[The above video] shows the adults arriving and nest building on Day 4.

Nesting material
“Some images to show nesting material being brought to the nest. It was primarily dried grass, especially the heads or inflorescences of road side grass (below left). Also some Ceiba pentandra (Kapok tree “cotton”) padding.

“Still images were tough as the birds arrive and depart very abruptly. The above video shows adults bringing material to pad the nest. The video is made from multiple edited clips and the duration in the nest has been shortened.

“You can see in [the image above right] that at Day 7 of nest building the interior is extensively padded. All this in 5 days of work, if you exclude the first two days of stitching activities.”

Note & Disclosure:
“I have previously described our wild, overgrown, very urban garden very diverse ground cover with many plants intermingled (Epipremnum aureum, Fragaria vesca, Piper sarmentosum, Arachis pintoi, Cosmos sulphureus, Colocasia esculenta, Capsicum annuum plants, other herbs, etc, etc.). We sit in our patio for lunch routinely and have a bird bath/drinking basin just a meter in front of us. Many birds will enjoy this while we are present. This new nest is merely 1.5 meters from where we sit and the tailorbirds know we can see them easily.

“No attempt to touch the nest, disturb the surrounding vegetation or use flash photography.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS & Datin Dr Swee-Im Lim
Canning Garden Home, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
4th July 2012

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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