“Brown-throated Sunbirds (Anthreptes malacensis) nest in all kinds of places. I have seen them build homes on telephone wires, under the eves of my kitchen, and in potted plants on balconies.
“But the location of this one, which I first photographed with my handphone camera, takes the cake for being undiscriminating. It is in the open, exposed to the blazing sun, directly over a busy pathway between two bus stops, just behind a large and crowded kindergarten.
“Besides people going to the kindergarten, the bus stops serve a military camp and an industrial park. Lots of pedestrians walk between them as they transfer from one bus service to another.
“Simply stretching out my arm, I used just my handphone camera to take a picture of the female sunbird in the nest.
“I observed this nest over a couple of weeks. The chicks within it have hatched, and are now in a fairly advanced stage of development. They should fledge and leave the nest within the next few days.
“What was really surprising though was that just around the corner of the building in the first picture, less than five meters away, was another sunbird nest. This one appeared abandoned. As sunbirds are extremely territorial, I cannot imagine that another pair had built it.
“Was it then an earlier attempt by the same pair? This second location is more private, somewhat shaded, and to my human way of thinking, would have been preferable. Why did the birds abandon it? Could predators have been an issue? There are lots of mynahs, some laughing thrushes, squirrels and tree snakes in this area. The latter three are notorious egg thieves.
“Could the sunbirds have chosen to nest right over pedestrians because those predators would not want to get so close to people?
“I later went back to take more photos with a better camera. The picture taken in daylight shows one of the parents bringing food to the nest.
“The picture taken at night shows the female, and the little awning that prevents rain from going into the entrance which is a characteristic of many Sunbird nests.
“Brown-throated Sunbirds are very common in Singapore because they are quite general feeders. Besides nectar from a wide variety of flowers, they have been seen eating fruits and insects. And if they continue to breed in all kinds of places, as this pair did, we should be able to continue seeing many more of them.”
Lee Chiu San
17th April 2019