Orange-bellied Leafbird – nectar feeding

posted in: Feeding-plants | 2

“There has been some uncertainty as to the role of nectar in the diet of leafbirds.

1. “Wikipedia LINK quoting Wells, David (2005), ‘Family Chloropseidae (Leafbirds)’, in del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David, Handbook of the Birds of the World states: ‘The extent to which the leafbirds consume nectar is a matter of some debate, records are more common in Southern Asia compared to South East Asia.’

2. “Most descriptions of leafbirds mention nectar as part of their diet. Some even suggest it is a common and important activity. As an example see HERE. ‘They feed on mostly insects, as well as taking fruits, berries and nectar… Their spiked tongues are well adapted for taking nectar from tubular flowers, … Like hummingbirds, they will hover in front of a flower while retrieving the nectar.’

3. “But I am sure many of us who have watched them have seen more frugivory (fruit feeding) and insect prey. This has been my personal experience over many years.

4. “Regarding the Orange-bellied Leafbird (Chloropsis hardwickii malayana), Wells (2007) states: ‘As in all leafbirds, the tongue is channelled and brush-tipped, but in this species also protrusible to well clear of the bill-tip. Horns of the hyoid apparatus are much longer than in other local leafbirds, and this is the only one of the review area with a channeled tip to its lower mandible, allowing the tongue through even when the bill is closed. Visits flowers, including of introduced eucalypts, presumably for nectar.’

“Today we saw Orange-bellied Leafbirds feed on nectar twice (possibly same pair). They visited a flowering bush (species unknown to me) and were seen going from flower to flower feeding on nectar (top). We saw them at 7.45am and again, on our return, at 4.00pm at the same bush. Unfortunately images were hard to obtain as they kept to other side of the bush when the spotted us.

“Above shows the male at the bush and below, the male’s face immersed in a flower.

“A quick net search for articles and images on nectar feeding revealed:

a. “Orange-bellied Leafbird feeding on nectar of bottlebrush trees (Callistemon sp.) at Frasers Hill, Peninsular Malaysia ‘… this Orange Bellied Leafbird spent at least an hour in a single bush providing a great opportunity to photograph it as it went about its business looking for nectar in the red flowers LINK.

b. “Orange-bellied Leafbird feeding on nectar of bottlebrush trees (Callistemon spp.) in Peninsular Malaysia LINK.

c. “Orange-bellied Leafbird feeding on nectar of flowers at Doi Ang Khang, Thailand LINK.

“Also note
d. “Blue-winged Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis) collecting nectar from the mistletoe, Macrosolen cochinchinensis from the Panti forest in neighbouring state of Johor in Malaysia LINK.


We also saw Blue-winged Leafbirds nectar feeding on the same plant in the evening. Above image shows a female nectar feeding.

Note: This is the highest elevation I have seen this particular lowland Leafbird. Wells 2007 notes that found in lower montane forest up to 1250m.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
25th March 2015

Location: 1,000-1,100m ASL, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Habitat: Main road along primary montane forest

2 Responses

  1. Lee Chiu San

    Dear Amar, I confirm that in aviculture both leafbirds and fairy bluebirds take nectar with great enthusiasm.

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