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Pin-striped Tit-babbler – frugivorous behaviour

on 13th March 2016

TitBabblerPS-M. heynei [AmarSingh]

“I was watching birds feed at one of my favourite trees, the Blue Mahang (Macaranga heynei, formerly known as M. javanica). The fruit of this tree is favourite of a number of species (see list below), especially the Plain Sunbird. Yesterday I saw a number of other birds to add to that list.

TitBabblerPS-M. heynei [AmarSingh]

“The major surprise was the Pin-striped Tit Babbler (Macronus gularis gularis). In more than 40 years of bird watching I have yet to see this species take anything but animal prey, usually insects. Yesterday I saw a number of episodes of fruit feeding as shown in the four images accompanying this piece.

TitBabblerPS-M. heynei [AmarSingh]

“What was unusual is that there was only one bird at a time, unlike the usually social groups of 5-7. I wondered if a pair was nesting and took turns to get a ‘quick bite’. Could fruit feeding may be a convenient food at selected times, possibly at breeding?

TitBabblerPS-M. heynei [AmarSingh]

“Looking at literature to support this frugivory observation (searching for the common or scientific name with fruit or frugivory, as well as an image search):

1. Wells, D.R. (2007) The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passarines): states that food ‘not well described, but takes small invertebrates …‘ No mention of fruit in diet.

2. Collar, N. & Robson, C. (2016). Pin-striped Tit-babbler (Macronus gularis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from HERE on 12 February 2016): states on food ‘insects, including small beetles, caterpillars, ants, grasshoppers, spiders; also some fruit’.

3. (Wiki Species Pages states: ‘While their foraging behaviour of the is generally poorly studied, the Pin-striped Tit-Babblers are known to feed mostly on insects …. Fruit is also consumed on occasion’.

4. There is one report in the Internet Bird Collection of a Pin-striped Tit Babbler fruit feeding and the tree looks like a Macaranga heynei.

5. Another report from the region with an image, Saving MacRitchie suggests fruit feeding but the fruit is large and more information would be useful.
These reports are supportive of what I have observed.

“The Blue Mahang is a fast growing tree that likes full sun. Hence often found by the side of a path in the disturbed forest. It grows up to 10 meters in height HERE. The fruit are small, purple-black, and often in often 2 ‘lobes’. I have noticed over the years that the best time to see birds at the tree is around 10-11am. I suspect it take the rising sun to help ‘ripen’ the fruit. Hence there is a short feeding spell/period. Too early and the birds have yet to come; too late and the crop for the day is gone.

Birds seen feeding on the fruit (past records):
Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis
Everett’s White-eye Zosterops everetti tahanensis
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia
Grey-bellied Bulbul Pycnonotus cyaniventris
Hairy-Backed Bulbul Tricholestes criniger criniger
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon
Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis strigata

Birds seen feeding on the fruit on 12th February 2016:
Pin-striped Tit-babbler Macronus gularis
Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis malacensis
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus erythropthalmos
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus percussus ignicapilla

“(I missed a number of others as was focused on the babbler).”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
12th February 2016

Location: Tambun Interior, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Overgrown secondary jungle bordering primary forest along old logging trail

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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