Tiger Shrike eats Bridelia tomentosa fruit

on 24th January 2014

The Kenidai (Bridelia tomentosa) is a smallish tree commonly found in secondary forests (above). It has small, rounded, green fruits that ripen black. These fruits are clustered along the fruiting branch.

In January 2014 Chan Yoke Meng and Melinda Chan encountered a Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) picking up a ripened fruit of this plant and flying to a nearby tree where it landed on a broken branch (above).

The shrike moved to the broken tip of the branch and wedged the fruit there (above). In doing so the seed was somewhat dislodged from the fruit.

It then carefully picked up the dislodged seed between its mandibles (above, below) and swallowed it.

The shrike then picked what remains of the fruit and flew off, presumably to eat that also (below).

The diet of the Tiger Shrike is almost exclusively insects (Yosef, 2008) LINK 1, LINK 2 and LINK 3. Wells (2007) reports it taking bees, grasshoppers and a gecko.

According to Yosef (2008), shrikes can resort to frugivory during breeding periods and when there is a food shortage. Thus Southern Grey Shrike was reported taking dates (Phoenix dactylifera); Lesser Grey Shrike, cherries (Prunus) and figs (Ficus); Woodchat Shrike, mulberries (Morus); and Red-backed Shrike, rose hips (Rosa).

But there is no mention of Tiger Shrike taking plant food by either Yosef (2008) or Wells (2007). So this is probably a first record.

Another interesting point is the feeding behaviour of this Tiger Shrike in wedging the fruit onto the broken end of the branch before eating it. This behaviour is reminiscent of shrikes’ habit of impaling animal prey onto sharp spines before eating, as seen in these links: LINK 1 and LINK 2.

Chan Yoke Meng & Melinda Chan
January 2014

Yosef, R., 2008. Family Laniidae (Shrikes). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D. A. Christie (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 13. Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 732-796.
2. Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

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

7 responses

    1. In chasing species for checklist and portrait shots, we miss out in the larger picture of documenting food, behaviour, etc. But things are improving…

  1. Apart from such commendable, clear foraging images, I do notice there is a tendency for bird species with upper hooked mandibles to impale their foods as anchor only to devour them with comfort. Eg. the well known behaviour of Butcherbirds of Australia and nearer home, our ubiquitous Brown Barbet.Do look out for the larger picture of other bird species with hooked mandibles in documenting food behaviour. I suspect they too-some have similar food foraging behaviours not noticed by birders-photographers before or no opportunity presented.



  2. Would someone with more experience on Shrikes comment on the proportions of the bird in the picture. The feet and head appear disproportionately large. These could be indications that the bird in question is either juvenile or malnourished, or both. Juvenile birds, when first booted out by their parents, may not have much experience in hunting and foraging, and will be glad to eat whatever they find, even items that are not usually in their normal diet. In aviculture, I have come across examples of various species of Garrulax (Laughing Thrushes) and Copsychus (Shamas and Robins) kept under poor conditions, that will readily take fruit and grain. Well-fed birds of these species will usually not eat such things.

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