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Trees for Birds: 2. Macaranga bancana (Common Mahang)

on 24th April 2014

One of the most spectacular bird-tree in Singapore is Waringin or Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) LINK. A total of 42 species of birds had been documented visiting the tree to take the figs, the insects attracted to the figs or for any other reasons.

Another great bird-tree is the Common Mahang (Macaranga bancana) (above). The tree is commonly seen in our secondary forests and seldom, if ever, planted outside the forest. When news of its attractiveness to birds was publicised in the local media more than a year’s back, birdwatchers from the Nature Society (Singapore) were up in arms.

Alfred Chia, a senior member of the society’s Bird Group and Alan Owyong, who was then the immediate past Chairman, were alarmed that such a forest tree should be introduced into the urban environment. The former was worried about public safety as the ants associated with the tree may drop on anyone standing below LINK. This is a good example of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. These ants are tiny and harmless and we have yet to encounter them acting like SAF commandos, dropping on anyone and everyone below LINK. The latter was worried that the tree may attract roosting birds like starlings and mynas, thus causing a nuisance to residents nearby. Apparently he was unaware that such birds select their roosting trees based on where they are planted, rather than the species of trees.

The flowers of the Common Mahang are unisexual. Male and female flowers are found in separate trees. Thus the tiny fruits are found in female trees, each bearing two or more seeds (above). These seeds, each covered with a thin layer of lipid-rich pulp, are sought after by many species of birds.

Although Singapore has numerous Common Mahang trees, local birdwatchers are totally unaware that this is an excellent bird tree. One reason is that matured trees of this species are found inside the forest and local birdwatchers seldom, if ever, enter the forest, preferring to move along the forest edge or at the worse, walk along major forest paths.

It needs a Malaysian birder like Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS to point out the popularity of the Common Mahang with birds. So far, a total of 30 species of birds are attracted to the tree for the fruits and/or nectar, with one (Yellow-rumped Flycatcher) coming possibly for insects.

Below is a list of birds that are attracted to the Common Mahang, either for the fruits, the nectar or insects.

Barbets: Brown Barbet: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2010n); Gold-whiskered Barbet: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2013o).
Bulbuls: Black-headed Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009k, 2012b, 2013p); Buff-vented Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2010n); Cream-vented Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009k, 2013o); Hairy-backed Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009k); Red-eyed Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009k, 2013o); Spectacled Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009k, 2010n, 2013o); Yellow-vented Bulbul: fruit (Amar-Singh, pers. comm.).
Doves: Emerald Dove: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2014a).
Fairy-bluebirds: Asian Fairy-bluebird: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2014i).
Flowerpeckers: Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker: fruit (Yong, 2006; Amar-Singh, 2013o).
Flycatchers: Asian Brown Flycatcher: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009j, 2013p); Blue-and-white Flycatcher: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2012a); Mugimaki Flycatcher: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2013o); Narcissus Flycatcher: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2013o); Yellow-rumped Flycatcher: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009j).
Hanging-parrots: Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2011x).
Ioras: Green Iora: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009j).
Leafbirds: Blue-winged Leafbird: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2013o); Lesser Green Leafbird: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2013p).
Parakeets: Long-tailed Parakeet: fruit – Bucknill & Chasen (1990).
Spiderhunters: Grey-breasted Spiderhunter: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009l, 2010q, 2013o); Little Spiderhunter: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009l); Spectacled Spiderhunter: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2010q); Yellow-eared Spiderhunter: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2010q).
Sunbirds: Plain Sunbird: nectar/fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009i, 2010q, 2013e, 2013o); Purple-naped Sunbird: nectar/fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009i, 2010q, 2011y, 2013o); Red-throated Sunbird: nectar/fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009i, 2011y, 2013o): Ruby-cheeked Sunbird: nectar/fruit (Amar-Singh, 2009i, 2011y, 2013p).
Thrushes: An unknown sp. (Amar-Singh, pers. comm.)
White-eyes: Everett’s White-eye: fruit (Amar-Singh, 2010q, 2013o).

YC Wee (text, top image) & Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS (bottom image).

References:
1. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2009i. Macaranga bancana and sunbirds LINK.
2. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2009j. Macaranga bancana attracts green iora and flycatchers LINK.
3. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2009k. Macaranga bancana and bulbuls LINK.
4. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2009l. Macaranga bancana and spiderhunters LINK.
5. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2010n. Everett’s white-eye takes nectar from Eucalyptus flowers LINK.
6. Amar-Singh, HS S, 2010q. Macaranga bancana: More birds feeding on fruits LINK.
7. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2011x. Blue-crowned hanging parrot takes Macaranga bancana fruits LINK.
8. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2011y. Feeding behaviour of sunbirds LINK.
9. Amar-Singh, HHS, 2012a. Blue-and-white flycatcher and Macaranga bancana fruits LINK.
10. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2012b. Black-headed bulbul feeding on fruits of Macaranga bancana LINK.
11. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2013e. Plain Sunbird – feeding behaviour LINK.
12. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2013o. Birds feeding on fruits of Macaranga bancana LINK.
13. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2013p. Asian Brown Flycatcher – fruit feeding (frugivorous behaviour) LINK.
14. Amar-Singh, HSS, 2014a. Emerald Dove feeding on fruits of Macaranga bancana LINK.
15. Bucknill, J.A.S. & F.N. Chasen (1990). Birds of Singapore and South-east Asia. Graham Brash, Singapore. 247 pp.
16. Yong, D. L. 2006. The fig tree at Bukit Timah: 1. Efforts at documentation LINK

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

9 responses

  1. Interesting and informative post!
    Although I think it’s quite unnecessary to use it to criticise the lack of knowledge of other birders…

    1. BESG and Bird Group, once activity groups of the same Nature Society, had been at loggerhead ever since the former entered the scene. When BESG became active, BG’s status as TOP DOG was being questioned. This is the background of the relationship between the two groups.

      These two birdwatchers launched a two-pronged attack in the local newspaper in an attempt to belittle BESG. In the process, they announced their ignorance publicly and loudly in the local press.

    1. I agree. I don’t see anyone being “criticised” in this article. If a teacher corrects your mistakes, is that criticism? Apparently some people are unable to distinguish between the two, which is the more worrying issue here I feel.

  2. Very informative however the mentioning of names are totally unnecessary.

    Not sure when was the news on the local press with the “attack” but definitely none that I can remember of as recently, seems like the author is very narrow minded. Being a public forum for nature, it is sad that we are not forgiving among one another.

    Whatever facts of Science, we were not taught to Unforgive and Unforget but to keep rubbing old wounds.

    Please remove this reply as you deem appropriate

    1. Check out this link https://besgroup.org/2012/10/20/matching-trees-and-birds-a-naturalists-response/ – it is given in the text. I suppose you fail to read the post, only the comments. I can accept innocent misinformation but not mis-information laced with malice. And the two were definitely full of malice. Unfortunately they were more into malice than accurate information. Sorry, but the temptation to refer to their stupid “letters to the press” was too good to pass.

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