What happened to the sunbird’s chick?

on 5th March 2017

SunbirdOB [SubaThasan]

“I am in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A couple of sunbirds built a nest on my hanging artificial orchid. That was about mid-December 2016 (above).

SunbirdOB [SubaThasan]

“I only saw one egg (above) and eventually one chick a week ago. Wife said there were two chicks.

SunbirdOB [SubaThasan]

“This morning at 6am, the mother still flew in and out of the nest (above). At about 11am, wife said the chicks were missing (below). I confirmed it at 5pm.

SunbirdOB [SubaThasan]

“Very surprised. The chicks definitely weren’t ready to fly. Last week their eyes weren’t even open. No other animal threat was evident. Very surprised and sad. Really not sure what has happened.

“Most likely chick taken by a predator… see HERE.

“I believe that must be the most probable reason. I can’t imagine the adult birds carrying the chicks. However I am not sure which predator to put my finger on. The Yellow-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) are nearby on a large tree. But they never come to my house. No cats either. Crows may be another culprit.”

Suba Thasan
Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
3rd February 2017

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

6 Responses

  1. We had a second family of Olive Backed Sunbirds’ reuse the nest from the 1st family. We could tell they were different birds from the color of the male and female birds. Once again, 2 days after the egg had hatched, the nest was empty. At about 11am the previous day, we checked on the nest and the mother was snuggled in her nest. The next morning about 6am, She wasn’t there. We let it be until about 11am before we climbed to check and to our dismay, the chick wasn’t there.

    We can’t understand if this is a pattern among these birds. I doubt they can see in the dark. If ever there was a predator, it would have had to climb and then perch or slither into the nest which was hanging about 9 feet in the middle of my car porch.

    Hope to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences. It’s heart wrenching to not see the chicks grow up and leave it’s nest naturally.



  2. sorry, it should have read, 11pm the previous night. So I didn’t think it was possible for the birds to do any work at night because the next morning at 6am, it was missing.

  3. I suspect it was a snake or a predatory bird. Or, not probable, the parents kicked them both out of the nest. In ecology it is the “Food Chain” process at work. It is Nature’s way of regulating itself: I eat you, you eat me.

  4. We went through the same experience yesterday. The sunbird chicks (2 of them), barely 6 days old, definitely not ready to fly, were gone missing, together with their parents. We noticed the nest was a mess inside, in totally different condition as when the mom was caring for her chicks. It didn’t look like the job of a cat cause there were no debris of the nest on the floor. My guess the culprit is another predator bird.

  5. This has happened three times now on my balcony during the last three months. Two very young chicks, closed eyes in each ocasion have seemingly disappeared from one day to another. We ar eon the 6th floor and the nest is attacched rather precariously on the fond of a small palm palnt about yard above ground. It is not a snake, could be a giant gecko but they are too heavy and would pull the branch to the ground. I do not see how a crow or any other predatory bird would be able to hover just infront of the opening and pluck the chicks out. The nest itself would not hold if a larger bird like a crow attached itself to it. Its a complete mystery. Next time they nest I will be setting up a small camera.

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