Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker – Nesting Observations

posted in: Nesting | 2

I am extremely careful with nesting birds, as much as I am with babies and young children. I watched this nest using the car as a hide and only walked past (a public road) twice. I observed them on three separate occasions for periods less than 20 minutes each. I used only handheld photography with a long lens (600mm x 1.5 DX format), with no flash, and positioned myself about 7-8 meters from the nest. I monitored their behaviour and they did not appear distressed by my presence.

Observations (25 June to 7th July 2016):
“1. I came across a pair of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) at a time when they were completing their nest.

“2. Both partners were involved in nest building.

“3. The nest was located in a Malvaviscus arboreus (Sleeping Hibiscus) bush at 1.9-2.0 meter up (below). The bush was one of many that line a single lane, rural road in a farming location at the outskirts of Ipoh city. The flowers are favourite of many sunbirds that are constantly present at the site.

SunbirdScBk-nesting [AmarSingh] 1

“4. They had carefully built the nest such that the oval entrance was shaded/covered by some of the leaves.

“5. They were using fibre from the Typha latifolia (Common Bulrush, Common Cattail) to line the inside of the nest. These were collected from a nearby ex-mining pool were the plant grows wild in the ‘wetlands’. Below is poor composite image of the female harvesting some fibre. The ‘fruiting spikes’ burst into a cotton like fibre, ideal for nesting use.

SunbirdScBk-nesting [AmarSingh] 2

“6. The female started incubating by 28th June 2016 (below). My observations were too brief to see if the male also was involved in incubation.

SunbirdScBk-nesting [AmarSingh] 3

“7. I did however see the male nearby guarding the nest. On one occasion it aggressively chased a Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach bentet) away from the nest for about 50 meters. Unfortunately I was busy on the phone with the hospital discussing a sick child at that moment and have no images of the spectacular event of a tiny ‘bee-like’ bird chasing a bird many times its size.

“8. I had plans to watch this nest frequently as incubation and nestling periods for this bird are limited and not known locally (Wells 2007).

“9. Unfortunately, close to expected hatching time, a number of the Malvaviscus arboreus bushes were drastically cut by one of the farmers. I could not find plant cuttings or the nest nearby. I had not told any of the farmers about the nest for the birds protection but in hindsight perhaps some information might have been better. The loss of the hard work in nest building and loss of eggs left me depressed.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
July 2016

2 Responses

  1. Thong Chow Ngian

    Dr Amar, I salute you for your attitude and careful efforts in avoiding disturbance of the nesting birds. We can learn much from you in Singapore.
    Learning about how the adult birds harvest fibres fron the Common Cattail was interesting for me too. I have always wondered what these natural materials were.
    Thanks again for your well researched documentation and first hand observations.

    • Amar-Singh HSS (Dato' Dr)

      Dear Thong, please just call me “Amar”. Yes nesting birds need care and I have made some mistakes in the past, more vigilant now. I suspect that in addition to the Common Cattail they may also use the Kapok Tree fibers and the Lallang flower fibers but yet to have direct observation. Appreciate you comment. Amar

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